There are reasons why gaming “gems” appear out of thin air and one of the causes for it is that games like The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville just don’t “sound” like decent titles. With the lore attached to this side-scrolling adventure, it’d be easy to think it’s too childish, but there’s a logical design here that fits both younger and older audiences. By pacing out gameplay nicely, collecting powers and taking down Mojo Jojo’s robot army, it becomes quite the thrilling journey.
There are several visual styles for players to choose. In one, the developer wants to introduce a new, modern look for the girls. It’s classily done, with soft color tones, big eyelashes and lush hair, but no amount of effects can stop the dissociation created from knowing the girls as they once were, compared to this new form. Since the audio is directly taken from the show, however, it should be possible to learn to love this makeover.
For those who can’t make the effort, the classic cartoon look is still available as well, complete with colorful, aerial strands of light. A third pixelated appearance is for the 16-bit fans, though with low resolution models, forms can become blurry or indistinguishable.
Starting off, The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville goes for that old amnesia trope, but it fits in with the rest of the old themes. Locations are split into rooms, where certain exits are accessible and others are blocked off until a specific skill is remembered, quite like Metroid. In fact, it can go as far as being a complete conversion of that particular classic, as there is also a lot of backtracking through areas required, certainly at first. It even uses the obfuscating fashion where old games didn’t divulge any additional info. That can become confusing in this otherwise light-hearted journey, as the path to progress isn’t always clear. Nothing is quite as grating as a puzzle that’s simple in its design, but can’t be passed because there was never a precedent to overcome it. Some trial and error, along with determination, will be necessary to experiment in these caves and factory environments with bolted doors and laser obstructions.
At first, only Buttercup will be available, but beating some bosses also yields Blossom and Bubbles. Each has an individual power, which can be used on certain puzzles scattered across the rooms. This personal ability also has a different effect. For instance, Buttercup’s shockwave goes through walls, while Bubbles can use her freeze blast to block enemy fire. Playing around with the girls becomes a little more purposeful than just switching them for puzzles that way. Especially when a room gets crowded, it’s handy to use the right type for the job. It’s not like the whole puzzle thing is used enough to justify it by itself.
There’s also some intensity to combat, as certain areas are packed with robots. They might be horribly generic, as foes are generally just a ball with an attack pattern, but at least the salvos are plentiful. Some ducking and weaving may ensue to avoid incoming fire, giving the adventure a slight shoot ‘em up vibe.
To use powers, the girls rely on a star gauge. Once depleted, combat will fall back on melee only. That may cause some rough patches where heroes are in a tight corner on either health or power, but a save point replenishes both bars. Better yet, there’s usually a spot to rest somewhere close on the map. This is one of the more elegant designs in The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville. It holds some tough fights, but it is more than lenient enough not to become terribly frustrating for younger people.
Completing the adventure a first time can be done in around 3 hours, without clearing all the rooms, which is a tad short. Fortunately, this unlocks a new game mode that alters the dynamic of how monsters and rooms work. In Mojo’s Key Quest, the girls are now together from the start. Here, they search for keys throughout the locations, to unlock certain doors that require a number of items to open. Robots are immediately tougher here, so it curves along with the end of the first run. Some of the bland areas might be too tedious to relive twice, but it is a well-designed effort regardless.
It may not look like it, but The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville is a sturdy adventure with just enough depth to ride between simple adventure and intricate concept. Marrying its easier and tougher parts, it retains an entertaining quality for seasoned players, while the youngest gamers can use it as a gateway to tougher classics. Consider this experience like My Little Metroid.