Having survived the wretchedness that was The Simpsons Wrestling last week, I reached into the bag to discover what new form of torment my punishment would take this Sunday. I’d keep a positive attitude about this, but when Carl, my boss, picks the topic of discussion I can only be positive he’s gone out of his way to be a fart-blasting dong weasel. Nevertheless I have a choice: I can write about one of these games or I can go without Pop Tarts for the next seven days. One of those is too awful to contemplate, ergo you all get to read about The Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-Traction. Wait a minute, a Powerpuff Girls game? That’s a cool show. Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought…
[half an hour later]
Never mind. It was in the bag for a reason.
The Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-Traction is, on its face, not a bad idea even though it does confirm my hypothesis that developers make fighting games when they have nothing better to do with a license. If that was the worst sin Chemical X-Traction, released in 2001 towards the end of the PS1’s life-cycle, committed, it might escape with a slap on the wrist and a tsk-tsk. But VIS Entertainment wins the coveted RGM Award For Going The Extra Mile In Dickish Behavior (coincidentally shaped like a fist-sized rock) with this game, and rest assured, if they hadn’t dissolved in 2008, I’d personally drive to their headquarters and hurl it through the first plate glass window I found. Hey all you time machine tinkerers, let’s make this happen.
If you’ve played Power Stone on the Sega Dreamcast, Chemical X-Traction is essentially that, only with worse controls and weaker graphics. It’s a one-on-one brawler that pits Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup against several of the main baddies of Townsville. Fights take place in claustrophobic 3D arenas with a plethora of objects to pick up and toss at one another, but if you run out of smashable things, you can always go hand-to-hand. The gimmick of the game involves the titular Chemical X: both you and your enemy have reserves of the substance, and you’re trying to beat the X out of your opponent before he or she does so to you. Once a fighter has obtained three vials of the stuff, they can unleash a special attack that dishes out extra damage. Deplete the life bar of your opponent, move on to the next stage, lather, rinse, repeat.
Chemical X-Traction isn’t overly difficult, but it’s meant for younger gamers and not 39-year old bearded curmudgeons, so I can’t fault it on that front. The game’s single player story mode has three different sequences to complete, one for each Powerpuff Girl. I’m totally down with this idea: licensed games often have so little replay value it’s nice to see VIS Entertainment going the extra mile . . . until you see they took the same damn path each time. Whether you play as Blossom, Buttercup, or Bubbles, nothing about the game changes. You fight the same enemies, in the same stages, in the same order, with the same eventual outcome. Beating the game with one girl unlocks a second Chemical-X special move she can use, and you also get extra characters to use in the two-player versus mode (called ‘Simulator Mode’ for some reason) by playing through the campaign, but suffering through multiple fights with HIM, Sedusa, Big Billy, Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, Ace, and Princess just isn’t worth it. I also fail to understand why, in Simulator Mode, only one player can be a Powerpuff Girl at a time. You can pick any bad guy you want, but if you thought you’d settle the nerd debate over whether Bubbles could kick Buttercup’s butt, Chemical X-Traction leaves you high and dry. No ‘Girl-on-‘Girl action here.
That’s not why VIS Entertainment wins the trophy though. The Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-Traction for the PS1 is an improved port of the N64 version, but the Nintendo 64 game is nothing more than a re-skin of VIS’s earlier cartoon-based fighter Tom & Jerry: Fists of Furry from 2000, but even that’s not enough to earn them the trophy (we’d have awarded it to Eek! The Cat already if that was the case). No, VIS earns the trophy for spreading this poisonous laziness across no fewer than five different platforms with the release of Tom & Jerry: War of the Whiskers for the PS2 in ’02, and the Xbox and GameCube in ’03. This is laziness that bypasses simple ‘frat-boy-plagiarizing-a-term-paper’ levels by marauding into ‘you-are-a-goddamn-Snorlax’ territory. So of course I just spent several hours playing and writing about this game in the hopes of shaming it into the dustbin of history. I may need to rethink how I approach this column. Lord only knows what Carl will assign next week.