This past week, we received a tip about a game that had quite frankly slipped my mind: Teen Titans. A previous-gen title, Teen Titans features four player drop in/drop out co-op throughout the entire story mode, with a nice variety of characters, teamwork attacks, and a heavy dose of the quirky humor that made the TV show it is based on a success. All these various attributes make Teen Titans a fine choice for Co-Op Casual Friday.
If you aren't a total comic junkie, you might be wondering who the Teen Titans are. Throughout the years in DC Comics, many heroes had sidekick counterparts: Batman and Robin, Flash and Kid Flash, Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl, green Arrow and Speedy, etc. The sidekicks all got together and formed the Teen Titans, a sort of Justice League Junior, to fight the bad guys. Back in the 80s, the Teen Titans group lineup changed drastically, introducing characters like Cyborg, a mechanically enhanced fighter, and Starfire, an alien princess with energy-based powers. These New Teen Titans became very popular, and the comics were among the best sellers of the decade. in 2003, an animated show based on these comics premiered, and it was quite good; the show had a manga-like visual style, offbeat sense of humor, and of course several decades of great stories to draw from.
In 2006, as the cartoon's run drew to a close, Teen Titans was released for Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2. The game was a brawler, similar to classic beat 'em ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons. The five main characters from the show were all available to play. Robin is the team leader, agile, and trained in hand to hand combat. Cyborg is a tough bruiser with a powerful arm cannon. Raven summons shadowy strikes to great effect, while Starfire blasts enemies at a distance with deadly Starbolts. Beast Boy is the most memorable, changing into all sorts of different animal forms as he fights the nasties.
The gameplay is hardly groundbreaking, but really, there hasn't been too much innovation in this genre since the good ol' days of the arcade. Choosing from the five heroes, up to four people can team up to fight waves of enemies, defeat bosses, and otherwise advance the progress of the game. Each character has melee and ranged attacks, plus a few combos to mix things up. To the game's credit, each character plays quite a bit differently than the others. Starfire does far more damage from across the screen than other Titans, for example. Teamwork attacks are visually impressive and add immensely to the feeling of cooperation.
Throughout the game, characters get slightly upgraded attacks, in addition to the usual short-term powerups. All manner of unlockables are scattered throughout the levels, as well. For the most part, these take the form of new characters to use in the multiplayer arena portion of the game, which is separate from the campaign. We didn't find this mode particularly fun, especially when compared to, say, Super Smash Brothers Melee, but it does add a bit of value and longevity to what is otherwise a fairly short, straightforward experience.
Perhaps the best part of Teen Titans is the story. It's hardly an Alan Wake style narrative, but for fans of the show, there are lots of jokes and references to previous events. One of the best things about the cartoon was that the characters often break the fourth wall, talking directly to the audience. This happens in the game as well. Some of the levels are outright bizarre, most notably a level controlled by a villainous magician, who summons giant evil bunnies as minions. (Yes, it's as fun as it sounds.) My kids really enjoyed the game, and played through it with me once, and again on their own several times.
As a previous-gen title, Teen Titans can probably be found very cheaply. Wii owners will have no problems playing the Gamecube version, nor will PS3 owners have trouble with the previous-gen version for Sony's console, but Xbox 360 owners are out of luck. The Teen Titans cartoon is regularly repeated, so many kids today will likely be familiar with it. For young fans of the show, the Teen Titans game is certainly worth a look, though older gamers will likely find it merely average.