Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal (PlayStation 2) Review


There are a good number of games from my childhood, mostly on the PlayStation 2, that I absolutely adored at the time but was never able to actually complete. In recent years, I’ve made it my mission to come back to all of these titles and secure the closure I’ve so craved.

As you may have guessed by now, Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal is one of these titles. I remember it being one of my mainstay favorites, but for some reason, I was never competent enough to progress past the first few levels. Maybe I was too busy screwing around with the battle mode. Who knows?

Regardless, it felt really satisfying to come back to the game and finally put my itch for completion to rest. I’m hoping this review shows you that, despite mixed critical reception on “real” gaming news sites, Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal is a delightful romp that still deserves a chance.

Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal

Developer: Redtribe

Publisher: Warner Bros. Games

Release date: October 9, 2007

Gameplay

Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal is a great, big mixture of the beat-em-up, third-person shooter, and 3D platformer genres. For this reason, it’s often been referred to as a discount Ratchet & Clank, but I don’t feel this comparison is totally fair. Acme Arsenal is more or less its own thing, apart from potential inspirations.

I’ll start by discussing the platforming, the mechanic that basically facilitates the rest of the gameplay. Thankfully, I liked the platforming sequences a lot. Characters have a very profound sense of “bounce” to them that makes triple-jumping from ledge to ledge a good deal of fun.

The beat-em-up portion of the game manifests itself in the hand-to-hand combat you’ll engage in when lacking in weaponry. The melee is rudimentary in the best way, as bashing dudes in the face feels so dang good. There’s nothing quite like slamming dazed robots into each other and reveling in the explosiveness of it all.

Acme Arsenal strongly encourages (and incentivizes) implementing a handful of basic combos when fighting baddies. Button-mashing will certainly get the job done, but the job will take much longer.

Gunplay is the main focus of the game—made evident by the “Bring out the big guns!” tagline on the back of box—and it fortunately works fairly well. Shooting is a simple, strafe-heavy affair most useful for taking out large groups of enemies from a safe distance.

My primary firing strategy was to lock onto an enemy and blast the absolute crud out while circling him and jumping about to avoid his attacks. In this way, the shootouts did feel sort of Ratchet: Deadlocked-esque.

The main issue I had with gunplay was that the auto-targeting system (and even the manual lock-on) would sometimes act without much reason. Shouldn’t I want to hit the closest enemy first? Or perhaps the one actively firing at me? Apparently not, according to the game.

It’s also worth mentioning that guns sometimes felt genuinely less effective than melee. The tall robot, for example, required far more firepower than fighting to subdue. I would’ve liked it if the guns felt more useful in certain scenarios. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Despite some minor flaws, these three pillars coalesce to create a high-energy, generally enjoyable gameplay experience. Ancillary elements—like level design, enemies, and more—further enhance the gameplay.

Despite their short length, I feel the levels are smartly crafted and packed with entertainment. They sometimes rely on a bit of backtracking—for instance, after hitting a switch and altering a portion you’ve already progressed through—but I never found the practice to be egregious.

Though enemies never make any crazy intelligent maneuvers, you can guarantee they’ll engage in hot pursuit the very second they see you. For what is, in essence, a beat-em-up with guns, I feel like this behavior is absolutely suitable. Enemies should want to fight you, after all.

I’d say the biggest missed opportunity here is the lack of compelling collectibles. As for stuff to pick up, there are coins, “illudium”, and trophies, all of which serve a unique purpose.

Coins are the most plentiful item, serving as the currency for the game’s small in-game economy. When I say plentiful, I mean it. You’ll pick up coins by destroying boxes, crates, jars, and (sometimes) enemies littered throughout levels. Collected coins can be spent on weapons, illudium, and character skins at vending terminals placed at certain intervals.

Illudium is a purely optional pickup that, when collected en masse, will boost your character’s power. I certainly noticed the buff—robots were dropping like flies before me—but I never felt like picking up the glorified glow sticks was all that necessary.

Trophies, molded after Looney Tunes characters, are to be collected purely for collecting’s sake. Most weren’t terribly hard for me to find, but a few game me a run for my money. Whether you’ll seek trophies out or not will likely depend on how much you give a flip about the game to begin with. They don’t really do anything besides look pretty.

The boss battles sprinkled through the story aren’t the most exciting in the world. While I appreciated the idea of larger enemy encounters in theory, the sequences mostly boiled down to running in circles until the boss had ceased attacking so I could move in and bash his face. I certainly didn’t hate the boss fights—not even close—but I didn’t feel they reached the heights they should have to be truly engaging.

There are a handful of driving sequences that I’d imagine were also intended to break up the flow of gameplay but admittedly didn’t do a lot for me. Not only was the objective of getting to the next checkpoint before time runs not all that interesting, but the act of driving itself didn’t feel very riveting either.

If you can’t possibly bear to hog all the fun to yourself, worry not: a second player can join in before any level in splitscreen co-op. This mode was kind of enjoyable but rather imperfect due to some technical concerns I’ll discuss later.

To better tailor your robot-bashing journey, there are three difficulty settings: easy, medium, and hard. Each progressive setting ups the level of damage you take and the aggressiveness of enemies. In my opinion, easy was a piece of cake, hard sometimes got annoying, and normal felt just right. For the sake of smooth progression, I stuck with normal most of the time.

While the gameplay I’ve described so far largely pertains to the story mode, Acme Arsenal also boasts a “Looney Arena” battle mode in which two players violently clash for victory.

The gunplay and melee function exactly as they do during story play, only with the added variety of another human player in lieu of enemy robots. And honestly, I really liked the battle mode. The experience doesn’t even touch the more refined shooters out there, but it certainly scratched the itch of this filthy casual.

All in all, I like the way Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal plays. It’s got some wonky bits—no doubt about it—but I had fun. I’d say that counts for something.

Content

I’ll be 100 percent honest with you: Acme Arsenal is not a long game. In fact, if you really put your mind to it, you could probably burn through the story mode in an afternoon. However, I’d maintain that the short length isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

First, the numbers: There are 21 story mode levels, three difficulty settings, [?] battle mode stages, and eight playable characters. Completing the base package is a breeze, so you’ll probably want to unlock all the secrets, as well.

While many will probably disagree with me, I like concise game lengths. I don’t want a gameplay loop—especially one as simple as this—to overstay its welcome for hours on end. Acme Arsenal fed me just enough for me to feel fairly satisfied with what I got. Besides, I often prefer having a lot of short levels to a handful of long ones.

If you really want more out of the package, you’ll want to parse each level for the six hidden trophies and the seven unlockable costumes. Doing so won’t inflate your playtime to astronomical levels—far from it—but it will give you incentive to go back into completed levels.

Speaking of characters and their unlockable costumes, I more or less dug what the developers threw down. Considering the sheer volume of Looney Tunes characters in existence, I have to admit that the selection here isn’t nearly as representative as it could’ve been.

However, I’ve gotta say that the alternate costumes do all right job of compensating for these lacking offerings. Adopting such guises as Super Rabbit, Baseball Bugs, Duck Dodgers, and even “Girl Bugs” helps soften the proverbial blow.

I think the developers intended for the battle mode to eat up the most hours for players, and I can’t say they were wrong. As a 7-year-old kid way back when, I loved piddling around with the guns. Even now, my brother and I got a kick or two out of the experience. It’s the kind of mindless action you can get lost in when you’ve exhausted all other multiplayer options.

In fact, that kind of describes the entire game, which is why I think it’s fair to excuse the compressed nature of the experience. As fun as it might have been to keep going, I wasn’t really clawing for more by the time I reached the credits.

Controls

The controls in Looney Tunes: Acme Aresenal are extremely simple to pick up and function relatively seamlessly under even the most stressful combat encounters with some minor exceptions here and there.

The button layout during standard gameplay felt very intuitive. You jump and double-jump with the cross button; attack with the square, circle, and triangle buttons; lock-on and strafe with the R1 button; and shoot with the R2 button. The two analog sticks control movement and the camera as they would in a 3D platformer as opposed to a first-person shooter.

Every character feels more or less identical, treading at what I’d consider fairly average speeds and performing more or less the same attacks. A small complaint I had with general movement was that the ledge grab wasn’t seamless enough and often broke my momentum.

Because characters animate with such exaggerated flair, you’ll need to be fairly deliberate with your attacks or else face robot retribution. As a fan of the beat-em-up, I was used to and had no problem with the somewhat punishing timing windows, although some might not like this aspect.

As I mentioned earlier, the auto-targeting can be kind of garbage, which unfortunately makes gunplay a bit more aggravating to control than it should be. Obviously, this quirk was something I was able to contend with or I wouldn’t have been able to complete the game, but that doesn’t make it any less noticeable.

The camera was surprisingly decent compared to the stereotypical licensed game, but it sure as heck wasn’t perfect.

Unfortunately, I simply can’t ignore just how terrible the button layout felt during vehicle sequences. For some baffling reason, acceleration is mapped to the cross button and jumping is mapped to the triangle. This ungoshly design wreaked havoc on my poor, unsuspecting right thumb, as pictured above.

But like I said, Acme Arsenal doesn’t control poorly overall. If you’re able to brush aside some of the nastier bits, you’ll likely see that the moment-to-moment inputs are far from broken.

Graphics/Presentation

The presentation quality is rather mixed. Acme Arsenal gets so close to knocking it out the park but ultimately falters in the final inning. (Is that how you make baseball analogies? Not like I would know. I despise sports.)

Let’s start with the foundation for everything to come: the narrative. The evil Dr. Frankenbeans has built an army of robots with the intent of sending them back in time to destroy the Looney Tunes’ ancestors and thereby the current crop of characters. It’s up to you, the player, to stop this devious disaster.

Even if it’s not the most riveting storyline in the world, I feel like the plot is more than suitable as a setup for a game in which cartoon characters blow up robots with guns in a variety of exotic locales. The characters’ motivations seem logical enough to me at least.

The cinematics are just okay. Although they reek of bad 2007 CGI and don’t actually do that good of a job relaying the story, they still have their fair share of decently funny antics. Nothing truly Avery- Clampett-, Jones-, or McKimson-esque, but passable slapstick just the same.

I mostly quite enjoy the visual presentation of the gameplay. The in-game graphics are sort of average for the time, but it’s the delightful art style that mostly makes up for any shortcomings.

The character models are spot-on, animated with all the squash-and-stretch you could possibly ask for. Even if the characters all play basically the same, as I mentioned earlier, their unique attributes do enough distinguish each from the other. Bugs Bunny looks and moves far different from Gossamer, for example.

Adding to the visual flavor are the wacky and detailed environments. Almost no object is perfectly rigid in form. Everything’s a little kinky, a little off-kilter, no doubt inspired by the layouts of the 1950s era Looney Tunes shorts.

I loved examining the posters plastered on walls (at least the ones that weren’t too blurry to make out). For instance, in one level themed after the “Chicken & Egg War”, there were egg puns aplenty. “I Want You For the Great Chicken & Egg War,” read one poster. “We Came First!” said another. “Know Your Enemy: Enlist,” commanded the last.

Marring the otherwise decent presentation are the numerous glitches and other technical issues. The game sometimes “stutters” for what feels like no reason, usually after dying or respawning. It’s not uncommon to get stuck on weird level geometry and free-float for a bit either.

And when you finish a level, the game just kind of stops. Like, you reach the end, the frame freezes for a few seconds, and you’re brought to the results screen. I get that this isn’t really a technical issue, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dull. I feel pretty strongly that the developers could’ve better “beautified” the process with even a modicum more of effort.

The splitscreen co-op was where the game would go to absolute crud. My brother and I didn’t have any fun beating levels together on account of the framerate chugging hard. (Side note: We had a much easier time playing Ratchet: Deadlocked.) Fortunately, the splitscreen battles ran just fine.

Especially jarring were the occasional disc read errors. Since my disc is pretty dang clean, I have no idea why this would happen. However, it certainly was annoying to have to reset my PS2 during the “Wackyland” level when the game started chugging and intermittently flashing a blue screen of death.

A less pertinent complaint I have is that the menu design feels really cheap. There’s no life to any of it—just text boxes over fake blueprints. Plus, since the game makes zero indication of whether or not you’ve completed a level, it’s not hard to get stuck after taking an extended leave from playing.

In spite of some glaring issues—namely the bugs and poorly aged appearance—I feel like Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal does a relatively good job of imbuing the spirit of its namesake.

Sound/Music

The sound design, especially the score, was far and away one of my favorite facets of the entire Acme Arsenal experience.

Looney Tunes fans will be tickled to hear a familiar group of talented voice actors reprising their roles here as stand-ins for good ol’ Mel Blanc. (Gone but never forgotten, am I right?)

Joe Alaskey does well as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Marvin the Martian; Bob Bergen does well as Porky Pig and Dr. Frankenbeans; Jim Cummings does well as Taz;and Maurice LaMarche as Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam. I’m sure I’ve made my point by now.

These wonderful talents haven’t gone to waste, as each character speaks a fair amount in cutscenes and during gameplay. However, as much as I enjoyed the playable characters’ many one-liners, they tend to repeat themselves to a pretty excessive degree. This never bothered me too much, but I know most people will probably feel the opposite.

The sound effects, too, feel right at home in the Looney Tunes world. Characters whack, whoosh, and boom with a real sense of wackiness. That being said, some scripted sequences had no sound effects at all, which made for really uncomfortable viewing.

Keith Leary’s soundtrack exuberates all the “Looney Tunes charm” I’d expect from such a title. While I can’t say it recreates the underscore of the classic shorts, per se, it does a good job of bringing the Tunes’ raucously cartoony world to life.

Some of my favorite tracks were “The Martain Fashion Explosion 1”, “The Great Chicken & Egg War 1”, and “Big Furry Green Bugs in the House 5”. Picking specific songs was difficult because many songs felt somewhat similar in nature.

That being said, raucousness does as raucousness is, and for that reason, I sometimes found the music overpowering after prolonged exposure. (Even the menu music became a tad tiring.) If you end up hating music—which, I should reiterate, I did not—you can always turn it down in the pause menu.

Honestly, I’m mostly willing to forgive the few transgressions, as the vast majority of in-game sounds hold up quite well.

Y’all, I’m smart enough to know that Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal isn’t an astounding game, but I sure as heck don’t believe it deserves the besmirching 38 out of 100 it currently holds on Metacritic. As I’ve mentioned on Wilcox Arcade before, underappreciated games are often not as bad as they’re made out to be.

Going back and completing some of my old games is definitely helping me broaden my perspective. I don’t view most licensed games, for instance, with the same vitriol as my contemporaries. No matter what anyone else may think of the game, I thought it made for a good (albeit mindless) time

If it isn’t obvious by now, I recommend playing Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal if you can find it for a good price. However, from what I’ve seen in footage online, you’ll probably want to pick up the Xbox 360 version for the prettiest and most complete experience possible.

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