Review by SneakTheSnake
"I'm torn on this one, doc."
I'm into the Looney Tunes. I think I speak for a lot of 90's kids when I say that the Cartoon Network was on often in the house, mostly with Bugs Bunny cartoons. Now, that can't be said as often for this new generation of kids / gamers; they're probably not as familiar with the Looney Tunes as the 90's kids were (how much of a shame that is is not a topic for this review), but I wanted to put that out there because it may affect my impartiality for rating Cartoon Conductor. I believe the Looney Tunes spoke a lot to the American identity of the late 20th century and has been a major part of the childhood of many kids during that same period.
The characters appear to be fading from the public eye - mostly because of the product placement-heavy Space Jam debacle - but there's still a sliver of hope in there. Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor is a part of that sliver of hope. The gameplay is derivative, and there's really not a lot of content here, but part of what makes Cartoon Conductor so great is also what it represents. It shows that, even after most of the original talent behind the cartoons is gone, there can still be fun and rewarding uses of the franchise after the fact.
The story behind the game is that the Tasmanian Devil, the ravenous glutton he is, has somehow ruined all the music behind some of the Looney Tune's very best cartoons. It's up to you, as the conductor, to put everything back together and reproduce at the same time some of the most iconic moments of the past decades of cartoons.
Have you ever wondered what Elite Beat Agents would be like with Looney Tunes characters and scenarios? Probably not. If you ever had, though, then this game is an approximation of that. Start each song by tapping on the screen three times with he stylus - as a conductor would do with the baton. The curtain is then unfurled on the action, and it is up to you to tap and roll the stylus to the rhythm. Circles pop up across the lower screen, with small outlines closing in on the circle to denote when it's time to hit the note. Players will strike the notes and roll the stylus from one note to another if they're of the same color. There are moments interspersed in which players will tap notes falling from the top of the screen into one of four columns. The only real difference in the gameplay here from Elite Beat Agents is, instead of tapping notes in the same measure, you're required to keep the stylus held down on the screen for the duration, or none of it counts. Combos still work the same, but at least there aren't any spin the wheel challenges at the end of these stages!
If you've enjoyed Elite Beat Agents, you'll enjoy it here in Cartoon Conductor. If you've never played it or its Japanese counterparts before, well, you're missing out, but I personally find the gameplay to be fine just the same. Multiple difficulty levels in Cartoon Conductor ensure that you'll find something up to your speed; the later songs, the techno remixes and the hard difficulty all have their nuances and difficult points. Points off for complete lack of originality, but they did, at the very least, rip off a formula that works.
The graphics in Cartoon Conductor are actually quite good, in my opinion. Each stage in Cartoon Conductor is a recreation of a classic moment in Looney Tunes lore, sometimes from a specific cartoon in their gigantic backlog, and each represents the cartoon wonderfully. The 3D models may be a little blocky close up, but they represent the characters just the same. What impressed me more, perhaps, than the character models (and the sheer variety of the backdrops) were the backgrounds. They look painted, really, almost as if they were taken directly from the cartoons. The attention to detail in the graphics is uncanny; a lot of the stages here are shot-for-shot remakes of the original animated shorts, even with new touches. For example, in a level channeling the classic Fudd vs. Daffy vs. Bugs moments, Bugs and Daffy are frantically pulling down posters from a tree. They keep tearing down posters, at an increasingly panicked rate, and what is the last poster at the very end of this classic gag? You, the conductor! Elmer Fudd promptly shoots you, leaving broken glass on the DS's top screen. Brilliant!
The sound is somewhat flawed. While I find it great that the developers brought in some of the better imitators of Mel Blanc's classic character voices (except for Foghorn Leghorn, who sounds way off), the musical arrangements in Cartoon Conductor leave a lot to be desired. They're tinny and lack nuance; instead of taking recordings of an orchestra playing these songs, they sound as if they were redone on an old synthesizer, and they're worse for the wear. It's especially disheartening, though, as this is classical music; hearing the arrangement of Beethoven's 5th or an aria from an opera in Cartoon Conductor, while not cringe-worthy, was perhaps an overly ambitious task for the developers.
Replay value is low in Cartoon Conductor. There really aren't too many songs here but, then again, I can't think of too many other moments they could have taken material from which effectively use music as the ones they've pulled from here. From What's Opera, Doc? to Rabbit of Seville to the Pied Piper of Hamlin featuring Sylvester and Speedy Gonzales, the collection well represents the unmitigated scope of Looney Tunes animated shorts. They developers even went ahead and created situations with music that could have happened but are really just combining old Looney Tunes tropes with classical music; a scene with Foghorn Leghorn and Barnyard Dog, for example, is underscored to the Hungarian Rhapsody. That said, game content is bare.
There are a few extras to unlock, like a jukebox and character biographies (which are actually quite detailed and well-written), but that would be about it. The techno remixes offered to help sweeten the deal are nothing more than loopier renditions of the classical music with a techno backbeat, and these don't help matters much. It might take some mettle to beat the songs a second or third time in the harder difficulties, though. The exposition Bugs Bunny provides at the beginning - the whole schlock about the Tasmanian Devil - never comes full circle. As one could expect, there really isn't a story in Cartoon Conductor.
This game succeeds on all cylinders in the presentation department, except perhaps for some poor-quality arrangements and music quality. Cartoon Conductor succeeds in recreating the iconic moments from Warner Bros. classic animation, with style, humor and surprising attention to detail. When one boils down to it, though, there is no original gameplay here, and the game is, despite attempts to lengthen it with techno remixes and some unlockables, surprisingly short. Children and seasoned Warner Bros. animation aficionados like me will leave wanting more; beyond that, if you're a fan, you owe it to yourself to give this one a chance.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor (US, 06/10/08)
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