The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Jet Fusion (PlayStation 2) Review

June 24, 2020

I received The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Jet Fusion for Christmas in 2017. I asked my parents for the game knowing full well that it was never particularly well-received—and that it might end up being a bit of a letdown.

            We all know the stigma surrounded license games. Of course, there are good reasons that the stigma exists, but I’ve always enjoyed expanding my horizons. I like looking for the good in offbeat stuff.

            On top of that, I was already a huge fan of the Jimmy Neutron TV series and 2004’s The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Attack of the Twonkies for the PlayStation 2. The way I saw it, Jet Fusion couldn’t possibly be horrible when its successor was so dang good.

            Then, I played Jet Fusion, and for whatever reason, it didn't gel with me at first. But recently, I came back to the game after with a fresh pair of eyes to give it a fair shake. Fortunately for me, that fair shake was exactly what I needed to see the fun I had been overlooking for close to three years.

            Read on to see why the unsuspecting Jimmy Neutron: Jet Fusion might actually be worth your time.

The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Jet Fusion

Developer: Krome Studios

Publishers: THQ, Nick Games

Release date: September 16, 2003

 

Gameplay

The best way I can describe Jet Fusion is as a rudimentary 3D platformer collectathon. Your goal in each sizable environment is to run and jump your way to end, subduing enemies and collecting items along the way. It’s fairly straightforward, as you might imagine.

            The platforming isn’t as finely tuned as I would’ve liked, but I got used to it as I went along. Jimmy’s jump is quite short, so you have to be very deliberate when moving from platform to platform (or else face punishing fall damage). I think the biggest problem with the platforming is that Jimmy doesn’t have a ton of real momentum, making it difficult to judge how he’ll operate in certain situations.

            As for combat, it’s not terribly special, but it gets the job done. You’ll utilize Jimmy’s array of inventions (of which you earn more as you progress) to take down a slew of basic baddies.   

The Pulse Light Ray can be used to “stun” enemies, but it can be used on those that where sunglasses, hats, or masks. The Magnetic Tuner can be used to knock most of these face garments off enemies before taking them. The Gust Buster Fan can be used to slow down enemies and send their attacks back at them. The Bubblegum Spatter can also be used to slow down enemies or to seal Jimmy in a rolling bubble.

            For the most part, only the Pulse Light Ray and the Magnetic Tuner will actually serve any real use in knocking out enemies, but the other items all have very real uses in level progression and boss battles.

            Speaking of boss battles, they’re honestly pretty good. Each boss is a Calamitous-warped version of someone Jimmy knows in his daily life, and they all require you to meet unique completion conditions. I will admit that I felt really clever whenever I figured out what to do in a boss fight, even if none of them were all too complex. It felt rewarding, ya know?

            The item collecting is another aspect of the game that clicks pretty nicely. In most levels, you’ll collect a varying number of Tool Parts, Invention Parts, NavChips, Purple Flurp, Bonus Tries, Normal Batteries, Mega Batteries, and White Candies.

            Tool Parts and Invention Parts are the most crucial collectibles, enabling Jimmy to build new machines to aid in combat and/or progression. With Invention Parts in particular, you’ll need to collect all pieces to build whatever device will get you out of the level.

            NavChips are almost like Stars from Super Mario 64 in that you’ll need a certain number to progress to further levels. With that in mind, I don’t think I ever got to point where I needed to go back into previous levels and collect more because I always found enough without any prompting.

            The iconic Purple Flurp soda can be collected to refill your Health Meter (represented by three rings). Although these are fairly plentiful throughout levels, I really didn’t like how the game lets you pick them up with a full Health Meter. (What a waste!) “Bonus Tries” is just the sanitized name for extra lives. These are also somewhat common to come by but always greatly appreciated.

            Batteries, as collectibles, felt the most useless to me. Apparently, you’re supposed to grab batteries to “power Goddard’s Play Dead and Shield modes.” During my playthrough, I collected a ton of batteries, but I can’t even think of one time I found them useful, which makes me wonder if Goddard’s abilities are primarily useful during scripted sequences. I honestly have no clue.

            White Candies, on the other hand, unlike these other collectibles, are purely a bonus. Each White Candy found unlocks one image in the Gallery. Whether you want to see concept art or not is totally up to you, but I personally found collecting White Candies to be a very rewarding task.

            All in all, picking up collectibles was genuinely addictive and quite possibly the best part of the game. After all, what’s a Jimmy Neutron game without inventions and gadgets?

            There’s also some light puzzle-solving occasionally but nothing too brain-busting. (Mind you, I think this is a very good thing, as I generally dislike puzzles.) The only puzzle I had major trouble with was a sliding block sequence in “The Communications Stations” that felt borderline random.

            It’s important to note that rest of the game isn’t too difficult either. There are some grueling moments—I swear to goodness gracious, I hated “The Lost Jungle” with a burning passion—but the learning curve is generally pretty slight. If you know how to operate most video games, you definitely shouldn’t have much trouble with this one.

            While it initially took some time for me to warm up the game’s many issues, I’ve gotta say that I’ve come to really enjoy Jet Fusion. The core gameplay isn’t anything mind-blowing—in some ways, it’s quite wonky—but it works fairly decently overall.

Content

I was pleasantly surprised by how deliciously content-rich this B-grade licensed game really is. Almost all of the 13 levels felt very substantial, positively littered with side quests to tackle and fun things to pick up.

            Unfortunately you can’t quit a level at a checkpoint at jump back in at that spot later. However, the game does, in fact, save your collection progress to that point, meaning you can breeze through the areas you’ve already scoured for goodies without much hassle.

            While I’ve touched on this already, it bears repeating: The goodies are really, really good (heh-heh). You can view concept art, the intro movie, the outro movie, “bio cards”, outtakes, the credits, and trailers for then-upcoming games. 

            (Side note: I miss when publishers would include trailers for upcoming games on the disc. I know it’s kind of pointless in the Internet Age, but it’s really neat from a historical perspective. Side-side note: The inclusion of development materials in games is very important to me, and it’s not something that can be replicated by a Tumblr blog.)

            There are also various options to mess about with. You can adjust sound effects volume and music volume; toggle widescreen, subtitles, and vibration on or off; and select one of four preset controller configurations. It may not be the widest selection of options in the world, but by golly, it works just fine.

            There’s plenty to explore in Jet Fusion—both in-game and out—which is part of what elevates from the usual crop of licensed games. You’re in store for hours of content here.

Controls

The controls work decently enough but probably could’ve used some fine-tuning before release. As I touched upon in the “Gameplay” section, Jimmy’s jump isn’t ideal. I got plenty used to it as I progressed deeper into the game—and was therefore able take the limitations into account—but I still felt it could have been a touch better.

            The only major criticisms I have are of A) the camera and B) rope swinging. While the camera isn’t terrible by and large, it has a tendency to get badly stuck in tight spaces, and I hate that you can’t tilt the view up and down. The rope swinging, on the other hand, never felt perfectly right to me. I couldn’t figure out a reliable means of changing direction while hanging from a rope. 

            Movement in general, though, goes off relatively without a hitch. Maybe Jimmy could’ve controlled a tad zippier, but that’s also just a matter of personal taste. I can’t complain a bunch about what’s here.

            I will say that the default control scheme is very intuitive. I never had any real trouble getting used to the button layout and all. Plus, as I mentioned in the “Content” section, you can always change to one of the four preset control schemes if you feel that another button layout would better suit your fancy. I haven’t tried any of these, and I don’t really feel the need to either. I was down with the default.

Graphics/Presentation

I’m gonna be 100 percent honest with y’all: This game looks like butt. And when I say “butt,” I mean, like, bad for 2003 “butt.” Unfortunately, that’s one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to cross if you want to appreciate this game for the positive qualities it boasts. 

            The models are blocky, the textures are muddy, and the environments vary wildly in quality. If there’s, say, a plethora of vegetation in a level, be prepared for an onslaught of visual offense. The game has its briefs moments of clarity, but on the whole, nothing about it is even close to cutting-edge.

            The lack of graphical fidelity might have been excusable if this felt more like a proper Jimmy Neutron game. While Jet Fusion is imbued with elements of the Jimmy Neutron series, most of the game feels like some random 3D platformer with Jimmy slapped on the box.

            Believe it or not, there is some sort of story justification for this—Jimmy accidentally turns Retroville into a virtual simulation using his Virtual World Reproduction Machine (VWRM)—but I can’t help but feel this underpinning is flimsy at best.

Had the game more closely adapted the actual Jet Fusion TV special—you know, the special the game is purportedly based off of—I think it would’ve been far more interesting. You don’t really do any spy stuff in this game.

            On top of that, the way the story is presented is downright atrocious. Compared to the “sequel”, Attack of the Twonkies, the cutscenes in Jet Fusion are beyond repair. I mean, they’re just rancid, man. I would say it’s a product of its time, but…well, plenty of other products from this time fared so much better.

            However, let it be known that I’ll always give credit is due: This game has one of the most spectacularly detail-rich instruction manuals I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’ve kept it by my side for reference throughout the entirety of this review. The manual clocks in at 36 full-color pages documenting the controls, story, game screen, main menu, options, extras, loading and saving, pause menu, collectibles, items, levels, characters, enemies, boss enemies, and the credits.

            Magnificent manuals like this were par for the course during the PS2 era. I loved them then, and I love them now. Our paper-conscious world isn’t so keen on them now, much to my chagrin. So, let’s give Jet Fusion somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million bonus points for effort.

            The Jet Fusion box art is pretty enough on its own, and it’s enhanced by the fact that it looks really good on a shelf next to predecessor Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (the movie game) and successor Attack of the Twonkies. Totally tangential, yes, but still worth mentioning for the collectors among us.

            I also like the menus. The pause menu especially is super easy to navigate and chocked full of useful information. But the title screen isn’t very good.

Sound/Music

Aurally, Jet Fusion is just okay. As with other aspects of the game, the sound design has its moments, but I can’t in good conscience say that it moved me in any way. Most of what you’re getting from this audio package is pretty average.

            The sound effects are the weakest audio element by far. Most of the sound effects give me the same vibe that I get from preloaded Unity sound effects. To elaborate, yes, the effects function exactly as they should, but they didn’t ever give me a proper sense of “Jimmy Neutron”. That might be a weird way of putting it.

            Surprisingly, most of the music is actually pretty jammin’. However, it’s hard for me to decide whether or not the music “falls in line” with the style of music Charlie Brissette brought to the TV series. I consider it important for licensed products like this to be sonically cohesive. I’ll let you judge it for yourself.

            The voice acting is hit-or-miss, and there’s a very good reason for that. Those actors who voiced characters in the show—Debi Derryberry, Carolyn Lawrence, Jerrey Garcia, and the like—reprise their roles in the game and do a characteristically phenomenal job of it. I cannot commend them enough for continued good work.

            Then, there are the minor characters created for the game, and they’re…well, to put it lightly, they’re uproariously bad. You can tell whoever’s doing all these NPC voices is trying, but I have trouble taking it seriously. The bad voice acting takes me out the experience. It doesn’t feel like Jimmy Neutron in that way.

            Like I said, the audio as a whole doesn’t blow the roof off the house or anything. Some of the audio is fairly cool (the soundtrack and the real voice actors) and some of the aduio hovers in the “meh” zone (the sound effects and the less capable voice actors).

            If you’re considering picking up this game, I’d strongly recommend listening to some of the music first to see if you’re comfortable with it because, at least for me, audio can often make or break a game experience.

The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Jet Fusion is far from a perfect game. In fact, I’d wager that the vast majority of players won't enjoy it the same way I did. However, while it took me a while to warm up to its quirks, I ended up enjoying this game enough to see it to the very end. That's something.

            Recently, I’ve made a point to deliberately seek out the many overlooked, underappreciated B-grade licensed games from the PS2 era. That being said, not everyone wants to trudge through somewhat flawed experiences just for kicks like I do. Go into this game knowing that your mileage may vary—and wildly so.

            But if you’re anything like me—a fan of both odd games and Jimmy Neutron—you’ll probably get something out of this. That’s why, without a tinge of irony in my writing, I fully recommend giving Jet Fusion. Who knows? You might have a good time.

            Keep it real, ya sweaty nerds. Make sure to join my Discord server for further Wilcox Arcade content.

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