Thundercats premiered on Cartoon Network to a mixed reception from viewers. The reboot took the series in a different direction from the 80s TV show. Panthro was either dead or a traitor. Lion-O and Tygra were brothers, while Cheetara was caught in a love triangle between the two. And as for WilyKat and WilyKit, they were street urchins, prone to tomfoolery and thievery. Halfway through the season, viewers – both new and old – fell in love with these new Thundercats. Old fans realized that the heart of the series was still very much alive in Michael Jelenic and Ethan Spaulding’s contemporary retelling.
The new Thundercats series was great for several reasons. The story was respectful of core mythos. Still, the showrunners pushed the series in a bold direction. Instead of a procedural action series, we got a multi-layered cartoon that wasn’t afraid to push the limits of storytelling. Unfortunately, the series was left in limbo following the Season one finale.
Several months later, a Thundercats game has popped up on the scene from Namco Bandai. Whereas the cartoon took daring risks to modernize the series, the game feels like an antiquated vestige of early 90s gaming. The Nintendo DS game is a cookie cutter side-scrolling game tacked onto the story from Season one. The lizard armies and other random enemy wildlife quickly become redundant. As far as the story goes, if you watched Thundercats, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks. However, all the nuances that made the series great are missing.
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The gameplay starts off with Mumm-Ra’s first attack on cats layer. Lion-O hacks and slashes his way through lizards with the Sword of Omens. With the right power ups, he can unleash an energy blast from his sword. However, you won’t be able to direct the attack well. This game has all of the bad qualities of early 90s development in it. There are blinking enemies who can’t take damage since you already hit them and weird collision detection issues that allow Lion-O to stand in front of an enemy without getting damaged.
Lion-O can also summon his fellow Thundercats for quick support. In the beginning of the game, Tygra is available. You can tap on the touch screen to activate him. He comes on the screen and shoots his gun all over the place – most of time, without actually hitting the target. Cheetara is available soon after you defeat Mumm-ra for the first time. She can drum up a gust of wind that is good for taking down aerial opponents. Kit and Kat don’t fight, but bring you power ups instead. Panthro, the last unclockable character, deals the most devastation with his Thundertank.
It’s an ultimately bland experience from start to finish. There is no differentiation between the boss battles. This is a game of stick-and-move with hardly any strategy. Once you have Kit and Kat available, you can almost always attack your enemies relentlessly, before calling in Kit and Kat for a health boost so that you can finish off your opponent.
The one good thing about this game is that you do get Lion-O’s voice from the cartoon. Will Friedle’s (voice of Lion-O) growl is great when he says, “Thundercats Ho!” Hopefully, Friedle gets to come back to live-action with the Boy Meets World sequel.
In any case, Thundercats the game lacks the heart of the TV series. Fans will want to play through the game, just to relive some of their favorite cartoon moments. However, it won’t be long before they turn off this shallow attempt at a video game. This is one game that we could have done without. Mark it a poor substitute for a second season of Thundercats.