Those of you lucky enough to have access to Cartoon Network are no doubt familiar with the Kids Next Door. For those who aren’t, the Kids Next Door series revolves around a group of kids who spend their days as self proclaimed operatives, planning out strategic missions in their impressively kitted out tree house. The group of kids, lead by the fearless and suave Numbuh 1, have their own unique strengths to help them along in their quests for freedom and fun (even if that strength is an overwhelming love of cute little creatures, in the case of Numbuh 3).
Operation: V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E. takes the Kids Next Door and puts them up against the most evil and dastardly villains the world has ever seen. Taking turns playing as a different Kids Next Door operative, you’ll have to save a doughnut factory from the spinach and liver coated clutches of Gramma Stuffum, stop Captain Stickybeard aboard the Sweet Revenge as he tries to steal every piece of candy he can lay his hands on, and defeat the evil Count Spankulot before he has a chance to smack all the naughty children. After foiling the plans of all the villains, you’ll be thrown into an epic showdown on the Moon Base.
As the game is targeted towards a young audience, it consists mostly of basic platforming. You’ll be jumping over obstacles, collecting various ‘Powuh Ups’ and engaging in some good old fashioned ranged and melee combat. The controls are kept simple, with jumps, punches and kicks and occasionally the firing of crazy weapons. Although each level takes part in an interesting and imaginative setting, the levels tend to blend into each other after a while. The controls are continually clunky and awkward, and the camera angles are abysmal. This wouldn’t be such a big problem if most of the levels didn’t need precision timing and tight controls to get through some seriously complicated platforming areas.
Interestingly enough, it’s the slight change of style used in Numbuh 3’s missions that ends up being the most enjoyable. Rather than fighting baddies continuously, Numbuh 3 spends most of her time catching fuzzy hamsters and doting upon helpless fireflys. Because her missions are less combat-heavy, you instead focus on gliding around using her oversized sleeves as wings. It also becomes less heart-breaking to loose your footing due to appalling camera angles, when you can just glide to another nearby ledge as you fall.
While the gameplay in general may suffer as a result of the terrible controls, credit is deserved for the boss fights. They all follow the same format of having to exploit the boss’s weakness before they can be damaged, but each still fight manages to feel original and challenging. A certain amount of trial and error is usually required to beat each boss, but without the worry of limited lives it isn’t tremendously annoying.
The graphics are simple and straightforward, keeping with the TV series style. However, the often witty dialogue and great voice acting more than make up for any polish the graphics may lack. The music featured in the game is also outstanding and does a great job of distracting you from the fact that you just fell off the same moving platform for the seventeenth time.
The final saving grace comes in the form of unlockable extras. The game features an unexpectedly large array of extras that can be unlocked as you collect items and progress through the game, giving an added incentive to keep playing.
The execution of Operation: V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E. is far from great, but the idea behind it has a charm that will grow on you if manage to stick with it and play through enough. At the very least, fans of the Kids Next Door series should be able to enjoy the game despite its shortcomings.