REVIEW: TEEN TITANS 2 (GAME BOY ADVANCE)

A2M was pretty busy making Teen Titans at one point, releasing three over the course of a year starting with Teen Titans on the Game Boy Advance in October 2005, followed by a console game with the same name in May of the following year and concluding with a sequel to their first GBA game in Teen Titans 2 released in October 2006. A2M’s first portable outing with the team was a fun, but not particularly challenging action plat-former with an interesting team mechanic that helped differentiate it from other licensed super hero games on the Game Boy Advance. Rather than building upon those ideas good ideas from the first game, Teen Titans 2 removes nearly everything that made Teen Titans enjoyable and is instead a unnecessarily frustrating title that will test the patience of seasoned players, let alone the younger target audience that the IP is catered towards.

After the Brotherhood of Evil kidnaps the Teen Titans, only Robin manages to escape from their clutches and enacts a plan to recover his fellow teammates and stop the Brotherhood. Like the first Teen Titans, you shouldn’t really come looking for a deep narrative in the sequel. About the most story that’s delivered is a few lines at the start of a chapter establishing whatever character you’re using’s motivation for the chapter.

Teen Titans had a great emphasis on teamwork, allowing you to switch between all the team on the fly at all points to solve simple puzzles or fight bad guys. Teen Titans 2 loses this feature entirely and it’s one of many missing features that makes this sequel feel anything but graceful. You start off with Robin and eventually as you play through the twelve chapter campaign you’ll rescue and be able to play as Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy and Starfire. Having to rescue your team brings back memories of Bucky O’Hare on the NES, and its Guardians of the Galaxy ROM hack, but unlike those two superior games where you build a team you can cycle through, you’re stuck playing each chapter as one character, only briefly summoning a partner to do what they could in the first game: Robin hacks computers, Cyborg can make exits by ground pounding and Raven can use her magic to get through force fields, etc.. Characters are not given at a decent rate either with Starfire being held back until very deep in the campaign as you’re forced to play stages with characters you’ve already rescued like Robin and Cyborg.

The levels in the first game were designed such that they could be played with any of the five Titans, something that must’ve been challenging to do when you’re dealing with some pretty diverse power sets and multiple characters that can just fly through a stage. The clear intention by A2M in Teen Titans 2 was to craft stages that are unique to a specific Titan, but it fails more than it works. There’s some interesting ideas in the Beast Boy chapters where you have to transform into a monkey to navigate climbable pipes and walls and Starfire’s stages play like scrolling shooters, but these ideas are brief. Through most of the campaign you’re controlling Cyborg and Robin, traversing bland stages, punching the same few repeated enemies and destroying the same wall mounted lasers. Powers that were easily activated in the first game, like Cyborg’s helpful arm cannon, are delegated to a Mega Man X like charge shot that’s very slow to build up to, especially annoying when you realize that the left trigger on the device is used for nothing whatsoever.

The only way I was even able to see what Starfire’s stages were even like was because the used cartridge I purchased for this game had a save file that had the entire game unlocked. A criticism of the first GBA Teen Titans game is that it was a little on the easy side, which is perfectly okay given that it was a title that was obviously skewed towards a younger audience; It’s sequel is tough for all the wrong reasons and only the biggest fan of the IP will want to see it through to the end. Levels are filled with pitfalls that you won’t see until it’s too late, lasers that will fire at you from off screen, floating mines that appear too fast for you to get out of their way and large enemies that take up far too much of your health when only two characters, Raven and Cyborg, can fight them from a distance. All of these lead to cheap deaths with the stiff penalty of sending you all the way back to a start of whatever stage you’re on.

When one of your teammates was low on health in Teen Titans, you could swap them out for a replacement, but because each hero or heroine is going solo, you don’t have this luxury and no concession was added to Teen Titans 2 to replace it. Whether it was checkpoints or a live system, anything would’ve been better than forcing you back to the start of some fairly long levels. Like the first game, levels are designed like mazes that have to be navigated and it’s incredibly annoying to get part way through one, die, and then have to start over. This leads to you having to memorize where each enemy or obstacle is going to come from until eventually you can make it through to the end. Every chapter is made up of four stages, but the game only saves your progress after you complete a chapter. This means that if you manage to get through two levels, only to get to the third and have to step away for any reason, you have to replay levels one and two over again.

Hopefully you don’t have to turn off your system for any reason, because you’ll go aaaalll the way back to Part 1.

As this was more than likely a quickly turned around game, Teen Titans 2 reuses a lot of the assets from Teen Titans and at the very least, it’s once again a nice looking game, at least when it comes to the characters. The Tittans are once again made up of large sprites that animate really well, especially the more acrobatic characters like Robin and Beast Boy. The stages, mostly made up of warehouses, city streets, and sewers, aren’t much to look at, but  in those instances when you can actually see where you’re going, they’re for the most part easy to navigate and you can figure out what you need to do to move forward.

Teen Titans 2 feels like this should’ve been the first GBA Titans game with the first game fixing its mistakes, but instead it’s the other way around. There’s an admirable attempt at crafting levels that better fit the team’s unique powers and abilities, but everything else is a step backward from Teen Titans, from not being able to freely swap between the team, and the frustrating design that includes among other things poor checkpoints and cheap deaths. Skip this game in favor of its far more affordable prequel.

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