Heard of The Avengers? Fuck that! This is the greatest crossover event in history. As a child of the early 2000s the Nicktoons Unite games were the coolest thing ever. A game series bringing together the biggest Nickelodeon characters of the time, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Timmy Turner, and ya boi, Daniel Phantom. They did a whole bunch of these, and today I want to talk about them. This era was an interesting time, where there was a lot of cross platform licensed games, often from different developers. I decided to play through all the GBA versions of these Nickelodeon classics. Why not play the console versions that have actual cutscenes and voice acting that is probably better content to talk about? Because I didn’t play those versions when I was a kid! This is what I could afford, so shut up!
Nicktoons Unite! (2005)
This one is barely a game. There’s 4 worlds, with 3 levels each including a boss fight. The main “mechanic” of this game is that each of the 4 characters has certain abilities that allow you to progress through certain points in the level, but you can only have 2 characters with you at a time, and there’s no way of knowing which characters you’ll need, so they just put these checkpoints where you can change characters throughout the level so you don’t get stuck. And it’s that kind of game design throughout. Like there will be a mechanic, but then they sort of double back on it so you can’t get stuck.
Also, this game attempts to use character designs based on the 3D models from the console version, which makes all the characters look like shit. Luckily, the rest of the GBA games use 2D versions of the characters.
The final boss fight combines all the previous bosses, but it's not even in a creative way. Like with Crocker’s boss fight he hides in these lockers, and kinda telegraphs where he is going to be, but then at the end he just teleports so it’s completely random.
It’s just a gameboy game, so I don't want to be too harsh on it, but then I remembered this is the same console that had games such as Pokemon Emerald, The Minish Cap and Metroid Zero Mission. Yeah, this game sucks.
Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island (2006)
This game is probably the best one. Developed by Fruit Ninja's Halfbrick Studios, this puzzle platformer actually controls well and has good level design. There's this fun mechanic with Danny where he can phase through certain platforms, and they do a lot to make the levels fun and creative. It reminds of classic flash games like SHIFT or Gravity Guy.
You unlock new worlds by collecting these bonus yellow hearts, but you lose the heart if you take damage. So you have to do a flawless run of each level to collect them all. Now, I do not have the patience nor even the skill to attempt that. Luckily, the copy of the game that I have has a previous save file with a 100%. So let’s see what you get. Oh… It’s just a "you did it screen." Now to be fair, most games don’t give you anything very cool for 100% completion, but the fact that this thing is behind a barrier, and every other time you unlock one of these barriers you get more levels, made me think that there would be some kind of bonus level at the end, but sadly no.
Overall this game is still really fun. It has good looking 2D sprites that fit the characters well, the music is catchy, and the levels are well designed and fun.
Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots (2007)
This one is a decent idea, with meh execution. You unlock a new character at the end of every level, but the game doesn’t really get more challenging or more interesting as you progress, it just gets longer. The levels are designed so that any character can complete them. But most of the time, instead of having interesting diverging paths, most characters just end up timing the same jumps. Timmy suffers again from the developers not knowing what to do with him. He has the ability to become weaker by turning into a frog. Both Timmy and Jimmy kind of suck because they can’t really damage enemies. SpongeBob also isn't great, because his main ability is that he can go underwater, which isn’t really an advantage it just means that he has to go a different way than everyone else. He also only has a melee attack, which isn’t helpful against most enemies with long ranged attacks, and a terrible bubble attack, which is slow and freezes enemies, but only underwater. Danny and Tak are probably the best characters since they actually have long range attacks.
Obviously I played as Danny, who has the standard phasing ability as usual. They try to do some of the ghost wall platforming that Volcano Island did, but not as effectively. There are some jumps where you have to double jump and switch back and forth between phasing. So you end up having to press A twice, and R twice, which is just not intuitive. And it’s not like the levels are flawlessly designed or anything, so sometimes you just end up glitching through the floor.
Whichever character you start with levels up and gains new abilities as you progress. After you beat the game you get a code that let's you play through the game again with all of that character's abilities unlocked. So if you get all the codes you can play through the game in super duper mode which just means that the game is the same but you have all of the abilities. I don’t really want to play through the whole game again so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt you get anything interesting for doing this.
Overall, not the worst game, but it's too long, and really tedious to play through. I do like the music in the ghost zone level though.
Nicktoons: Freeze Frame Frenzy (2004)
Somehow predating all of the other games, this anomaly exists, which might be the best thing I can say about this game. My copy of this game didn't even play at all at first but, I eventually got it working.
It's sort of like a less interesting Pokemon Snap. Nicktoons characters have been scattered around the multiverse, so Jimmy has created this magic camera that somehow returns them to their own universe. It’s sort of interesting to see all these different characters from a bunch of different shows, a lot of which hadn’t been represented in any of the other games. But overall it's not that exciting. For some reason you can play as Danny Fenton, but why would I care about that? I wanna play as Danny Phantom! Why would I want to play as a normal 14 year old boy? There's not a whole lot to say about this one so let's move on.
SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom (2008)
Wow, what a title.
I tried to order the DS version of this game off of Ebay, but it never arrived. Must’ve gotten lost in the mail or something. Bummer. However, I managed to find a copy for the Wii, so let's talk about that.
The plot is they have to fight the Nickelodeon slime. And in order to do that they have to team up with the villains… I guess. The gameplay is pretty similar to something like LEGO Star Wars. There’s 3 levels in each world based on the 5 series represented in this game, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Danny Phantom, Tak, and Invader Zim, with the final level in each world being a boss fight. Interestingly, this is the first game without Timmy Turner, but it’s cool that Invader Zim is in it. There’s also playable villains from each of the series. Plankton, Technus, some chick from Jimmy Neutron, some guy from Tak, and Zim and Dib are both playable, and I like how it's sort of ambiguous as to which one is the villain. For some reason, Danny seems to be the only character with a unique special move. The rest of the characters have a generic stun move, but Danny creates a Gooigi. It doesn't really matter since all the characters play pretty much the same, which makes it frustrating that you can’t pick which characters you play as. It just assigns two characters to you seemingly at random. The gameplay is extremely repetitive. A lot of basic platforming and fighting the same generic enemies over and over. I got almost to the end of the game and then I got a message that my data was corrupted, and my save file was just gone. I don’t really have the urge to play through this whole game again, so, that's the end of that.
In the mean time, I tried to order a DS copy again, and it actually arrived. Turns out, it’s actually pretty good. A huge improvement on the console version. Another puzzle platformer with minimal combat. Each character has their own abilities and you have to switch back and forth between two characters using each of their abilities to navigate them both to the end of the level. The pair of characters are assigned for you, but it’s in service of a level that is designed for those characters. And unlike the GBA Nicktoons Unite!, the levels are actually well designed. We even get to fight Vlad in the Danny Phantom levels which is pretty fun. My only gripe is that I wish you could pick any combination of characters at some point. Like at the final boss fight there’s a moment where you pick a pair of characters, but it ends up being just the pairs you’ve already played as. If you can pick any of the characters in this level, why does it matter which ones you pick? The final boss is a little annoying, and has a one too many phases, but at least you can kinda cheese it, by exploiting the game's health system. (You only have to restart a level if both characters loose their health, so if you just play as one character the whole time, you can theoretically continue forever) I do like that the tallest get an appearance in this boss fight.
Overall, the DS version was a huge improvement on the console version. Each of the characters had a unique platforming ability that made it fun to solve the levels. It did a lot of the ideas of the other handheld games, but actually in a creative way, and it didn't overstay it's welcome.
If I had to rank these I think I would still put Volcano Island on top, followed closely by Globs of Doom, then Attack of the Toybots, with Freeze Frame Frenzy(the boring) and the original Unite!(the bad) at the bottom. Even though some of these games weren't great, I had a lot of fun replaying these games and reliving part of my childhood. As a huge Danny Phantom fan, it's fun to play these games and I wish that a lot of these elements were fleshed out to make a truly great Danny Phantom game. These games are such a time capsule of the early 2000s that although they are far from perfect, they will always be a special part of my childhood.