Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (PlayStation 2) Review
Those who don’t know me may be shocked to learn that I’m actually a rabid fan of the three home console Jimmy Neutron games, particularly Attack of the Twonkies. (I’ve actually already reviewed Jet Fusion on this very blog.)
I suppose my love for the Jimmy Neutron “franchise” is motivated by the following factors: (1) I adore the original TV show, and (2) I enjoy uncovering licensed gems. Thankfully, this very trilogy of games just so happens to scratch my weirdly specific itches.
Having already played Attack of the Twonkies and Jet Fusion, I figured it was high time I play Boy Genius—the one that started at all—in my free time at college last semester. The results were…mixed. Shall I go on?
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Developer: BigSky Interactive
Release date: 2002
If I had to pigeonhole Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius into the confines of a specific genre, I think “3D platformer/collectathon” would be most suitable. Protagonist James Isaac Neutron—and, by extension, the player—is routinely tasked with running and jumping through 3D environments.
All things considered, platforming as Jimmy feels fine. Neither too slow nor too slippery, the young inventor behaves with enough fluidity that I could never truly blame my mistakes on the game itself. For reference, platforming feels better here than it did in Jet Fusion.
Adding to Jimmy’s range of movement are Goddard vehicles, including the Goddard Pogo, the Goddard Sled, and the Goddard Scooter. I found the Goddard Sled the most useful of these limited-time modes of transport, mostly because it was the only one required for progression in levels.
In the midst of these light romps, Jimmy will often enter physical confrontations with Yokians, who tend to fall quickly to his rather basic three-hit combo. Even though it was generally more frustrating than fun, I think the game probably wouldn’t have been as interesting without combat.
The Shrink Ray, the Inflato Ray, and the Jimmy Bat facilitate more engaging Yokian altercations. As you might expect, you can minimize foes to microscopic proportions with the Shrink Ray, enlarge them until they burst with the Inflato Ray, and bash their skulls in with the Jimmy Bat. These weapons made for amusing distractions whenever I succumbed to the monotony of punching.
By the way, if you ever run out of health, make sure to collect some blueberry pie. Although these delectable slices aren’t too sparse, the risk of dying at the hands of a villain and restarting from the most recent checkpoint is still very real.
Collecting items in this collectathon is practically meaningless. The main collectibles are neutron particles, which are scattered across every level. After realizing that collecting these does jack squat—not even so much as increasing a running total on my save file—I gave up on finding them all. (Not that they were difficult to find or anything.)
The only collectibles that matter are invention pieces. Collecting every invention piece in a level will enable you to exit said level by utilizing whatever fancy gizmo you create. Contextually, this feels like apt completion criteria for a Jimmy Neutron video game.
In my opinion, the platforming challenges and enemy encounters ramp up gradually in intensity over time without ever reaching truly impossible heights. As such, I’m more than happy to grant this game points for its satisfying difficulty curve. (The sole boss fight was super lame, though.)
What I’m not happy with is the use of lives to arbitrarily extend the length of the experience. Not unlike Jet Fusion, I was met with some pretty freakin’ bogus “Game Over” screens during my playthrough. Consider yourself warned.
Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, let me warn you about another nuisance: the “Space Flight Arcade Game”. I stumbled upon this rocket ship minigame while exploring Retroland—exactly as the manual said I would—expecting a reward for reaching the end. Not only was I unable to best it, but I’m also pretty sure there’s no reward for doing so. Don’t waste your time trying.
In spite of my criticisms, I can’t in good conscience say that Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is straight-up broken. I went in expecting a mediocre 3D platformer and got exactly that. As someone who’ll play just about any old tripe, I can’t complain. I won’t blame you if you’re not as forgiving.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is so fleeting that I even I was flabbergasted when it ended—and I vastly prefer short games. (It definitely didn’t help that this game has zero transitions whatsoever and cut immediately to the final cutscene after I kicked King Goobot’s butt.)
I completed the game’s six levels in approximately 3 hours and 7 minutes. The first level took me an hour and a half to beat; the others anywhere from 13 to 30 minutes. Why was my playtime on the first level so inflated, you may ask? Quite simply, I wasted way too much time on that aforementioned rocket ship minigame.
If I’d skipped the minigame, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would’ve finished the game in 2 hours—or even less if I’d ignored the neutron particles, too. Maybe someday I’ll put in the necessary elbow grease to stand alongside the greats of the Jimmy Neutron speedrunning community.
Let’s imagine that, for some odd reason, you’d like to extend your time with this game. What are your options? Well, besides collecting all the neutron particles, there’s actually quite a lot of bonus content, or “secret files”, to digest in the form of unlockable TV spots, theatrical trailers, clips from the Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius movie, and character bios.
By the end of the story, I’d earned  TV spots,  trailers, and  movie clips. As great as this sounds, there’s no reason to bother watching anything you’ve unlocked if you already own the Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius DVD, which contains all this content and more. Still, I’m glad the developers offered something to reward players who complete the game.
The real reward is the character bios. Though fairly accurate, these blurbs are written in humorously clunky prose, so I got a kick out of reading them. I suppose the only “problem” is that most of the bios are also printed in the instruction manual, making their unlockable status somewhat moot.
But hey, for $10 or so on eBay, I guess you’ve got enough content to here to warrant whittling away an afternoon. (Those who bought it at retail back in the day—rest their souls—have my sincerest condolences.) Just bear in my mind that what you’re playing is far from fully fleshed-out.
I’d say that Jimmy controls better in this title than he did in Jet Fusion, but he doesn’t control quite as nicely as in Attack of the Twonkies. That is to say that you won’t have too much trouble manipulating the boy genius down winding paths and across tricky platforms.
The only notable issues I encountered were with the Goddard vehicles and pick-ups. As for Goddard, the guy was just way too fast for me to ever get a handle on him. The Goddard Sled was fine once I figured it out, but I never felt fully comfortable controlling his Pogo or Scooter forms.
As for the pick-ups, I found aiming the Shrink and Inflato Rays at enemies a tad finicky, and I found the hit detection of the Jimmy Bat somewhat imprecise, but neither of these quirks ruined combat for me. For all I know, I could’ve just been rubbish at the game.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius controls well enough that I won’t write it off unconditionally on account of its few minor missteps. After all, I had no trouble navigating the vast majority of the game. I’m hoping your experience matches mine—provided you’re as forgiving of folly as I am.
Plain and simple, this is one of the ugliest flipping video games I’ve ever seen. Thanks to the low polygon count and poor art direction, absolutely nothing is aesthetically appealing, let alone faithful to the source material.
By far the worst element of the visual design are the character models. Somehow, despite having existing CG models to reference, the artists managed to thoroughly bungle up our beloved boy genius and his buddies. Even the enemies look like utter butt—and clearly not intentionally.
The environments could’ve been a saving grace had they more accurately invoked the well-established Jimmy Neutron universe. While I know this game is based the film and not the TV show, I firmly believe that BigSky could’ve done a better job adapting what had already been established.
Despite my soft spot for 2D sprites, their use here as pick-ups feels very last-gen. (Picture the Pokémon in the first Super Smash Bros. for a rough idea of what I mean.) The yucky visuals in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius would’ve been much more at home on the original PlayStation as opposed to its successor.
In truth, the package as a whole comes off as extremely…cheap. As I alluded to in the content section, there aren’t proper transitions between anything—only hard cuts. I legitimately believe the graphics could’ve been salvaged if the surrounding presentation were cleaner.
One regard in which the presentation absolutely excels, however, is the instruction manual. This 33-page guide contains everything you could possibly need to know about the story, characters, controls, menu navigation, secret files, pick-ups and inventions, the credits, and your limited warranty rendered in gorgeous full-color and Jimmy Neutron typeface. I loved reading through this gold mine.
I also dig the opening sequence featuring the full version of Brian Causey’s Jimmy Neutron theme. I mean, yeah, it’s weird that it mixes pilot and movie footage, but where else could you listen to that song back in 2002? For that reason alone, I watch the opener all the way through every time I boot up the game.
If you like Jimmy Neutron as much as I do, you’ll enjoy the little glimpses of goodness enough that the many flubs won’t stick out nearly as glaringly. Does this game completely capture the magic of the IP from which it pulls? Nope, but there’s just enough on display that fans like me won’t hate everything.
Though far from spectacular in every regard, I’d say the sound design succeeds to a considerably greater degree than the visual design in capturing what makes Jimmy Neutron…well, Jimmy Neutron.
The soundtrack is astonishingly well-done relative to the rest of the game, ranging from fairly standard electronic ditties (see “Main Theme”, “Retroland”, “Neutron Home”, or “Rocket Minigame”) to genuinely unsettling ambient noise (see all three “Ambient Tracks”). I kinda dug songs like “Asteroid Exterior”, “Yokian Mine”, “Planet Yokian”, and “Final Level” both during my playthrough and while writing this review.
The sound effects certainly aren’t bad, but they didn’t really rock my world either. Whether you’re picking up a neutron particle or swinging a bat, the accompanying sound is always exactly what you’d expect, if that makes sense.
I will say it’s cool that the narrative is fully voiced. The returning cast—including Debi Derryberry, Carolyn Lawrence, and Jeffrey Garcia—all do fantastic work. The replacement voice actors, on the other hand, do not. The Rob Paulsen impersonator BigSky hired as Carl Wheezer sounds positively dreadful.
Regardless, I give Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius due credit for what it gets right, chiefly the score. This entire experience would’ve been way less tolerable in the absence of decent audio.
Most people don’t read my console game reviews. (Wix Analytics have made that crystal clear.) Even so, I love writing this junk and wouldn’t give it up for the world. Shouldn’t I indulge myself every now and then?
This review is particularly indulgent in that marks the end of a lifelong journey. I’ve finally played all three Jimmy Neutron console games. By playing them in reverse order, I experienced each entry from “best” to “worst”, which was a surprisingly effective way to go about it in retrospect.
If you braved your way through this rambling text, I hereby dub you a true Wilcox Arcade fan. You likely understand my psyche far better than any one human being ever should. You’re correct in surmising that I’m insane.