There were a few DC Animated Series to video game adaptations that got their start on a handheld: Titus’ Superman came out on the Game Boy years before Superman 64; Batman: The Animated Series, also for the Game Boy, from Konami arrived before either their SNES version of The Adventures of Batman and Robin or Sega’s multiple titles of the same name and there was no console games ever released based on the Justice League animated series, just a duo of Game Boy Advance games. Teen Titans too was a property that got a handheld Game Boy game before a console game, but the difference between Teen Titans and the above three examples is that the Game Boy Advance game is better than the console game of the same name, even though the only thing the two share is the same title. Though a little on the short side and perhaps a little lite on challenge for seasoned players, there’s still a lot to like about the Titans debut video game outing.
After the members of H.I.V.E: Gizmo, Jinx and Mammoth infiltrate the tower home of the Teen Titans, evil clones of the team start showing up all over the city. The Titans get into action to stop their evil twins, put an end to H.I.V.E’s plot and find out who the real master mind is. Teen Titans on the Game Boy Advance is not really a game you should look towards as moving story telling in comic book games forward. What plot that’s present is serviceable at best and limited to a few lines of dialogue at the start of a level and banter between the team and the boss characters, made up of H.I.V.E and Brother Blood.
Teen Titans is a 2-D action platformer and one with a lot of great ideas that make it a cut above the normal licensed fare that you would expect on the Game Boy Advance. The standout feature is that you can play as any member of the Titans at any time by simply holding the L-trigger and selecting who you want from a quick and easy menu. You can choose to be your favorite character throughout the entire game, but developer A2M also cleverly incentivized using the entire roster to get through simple environmental puzzles: Beast Boy can enter small areas by turning into a bird; Raven can generate a shield to get past laser barriers; Out of reach aerial switches can only be accessed by Starfire; Computers need to be hacked by Robin and Cyborg can break into unreachable areas with a ground pound. As the game progresses it doesn’t get more complicated than what they teach you in the tutorial, but swapping out the various Titans to use their abilities makes playing through levels far more interesting than just mindlessly going through levels and pummeling on bad guys, although you do your fair share of that as well.
Combat in Teen Titans is pretty basic: Each character has a basic attack and a super move that can be activated on ground or in the air by hitting the R-trigger. Starfire and Cyborg fire laser beams for example and Beast Boy has several different animal transformations. The enemies you face don’t put up that much of a challenge, but you still need to know when to use the best character for each situation. Your super power works on a cool down meter that needs to be recharged, so it’s wise to use Starfire and Cyborg for crowd control, changing when one runs out so you can let them recharge. Raven’s aerial attack drops debris on everyone on-screen and it’s wise to save this for when you’re surrounded on all sides. About the only real problem with combat is that your character can’t crouch and most enemies shoot at you the second they get on-screen so you more or less have to take a few cheap hits in nearly every encounter.
What’s disappointing is that while it’s fun to discover when to use each character for specific circumstances, there’s very little enemy variety. You fight the same few H.I.V.E goons, a few bugs that crawl on the ground and dark versions of the Teen Titans over and over and that’s really it. Eventually they’ll start throwing multiple Dark Titans at you or versions of a character that will respawn with a different color, but once you’ve gotten a strategy down to defeat them, you can easily handle yourself.
Levels are non-linear but they’re never so large that you’ll get lost and you’ll normally have little trouble figuring out where to go. Other than one stage where you have to save a few hostages before you can move on, you just have to get from the start of a stage to the exit. There are twenty-five cards scattered throughout every stage which provides incentive to explore around with your team, but your mileage to track down every single card really depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. You don’t need to hunt down cards to progress through the story and most are hidden in fairly obvious places but a few are tricky to find. The only thing they do is unlock character bio cards that you can view in the extras menu should you manage to get all of them, which may not be enough for some.
From the opening tutorial stage you can tell that Teen Titans is a very pretty game. The stages are nothing spectacular but are easy to navigate, however the Teen Titans themselves are made up of big, colorful expressive sprites that do a good job of representing the animated series in a GBA cart and they’re not too big such that they take up most of the screen. The generic stage enemies don’t have the same level of detail or expression as the Titans, but they look nice despite not having a lot of variety other than a color palette swap. The same can be said of the four bosses, but much like the enemies, they’re reused save the final boss and the way in which you fight them doesn’t change either.
Teen Titans was a show that skewed younger than other DC shows, and the game does as well. What that means is that Teen Titans is not a very tough game, nor a very long one as well. Made up about seven stages plus the brief tutorial level, in won’t take more than two hours or so to get through. As you have five characters, each with their own life bar, and provided you swamp between your team during fights, you needn’t fear dying and enemies drop health items frequently. Finishing the game on normal does open up a hard difficulty and beating hard unlocks an even tougher difficulty so that provides a least some reason to go through the campaign more than once.
While not a terribly long or tough game, there’s a lot to like about Teen Titans, in particular its gorgeous art style and the creative way in which the entire team is used at all times for both level traversal and combat. Teen Titans could have easily been yet another generic, phoned in brawler but instead what we got was a game that’s far better than the licensed cash-ins that it used to share shelf space with. If you have a device that can play Game Boy Advance games and are a Teen Titans fan from either the 2000’s cartoons or its GO! spin-off, consider adding this game to your collection.