The Ripping Friends
Game Boy Advance
Fans of Slab, Rip, Crag, and Chunk will want to rip this cartridge out of their GBAs soon after powering up and slogging through the first few missions. Discordant level design, irritating controls, sub-par graphics and sound, and a general lack of the proper Ripping Friends spirit are the game's most notable features. Since the Spumco animated series appeared first as part of FoxKids' Saturday morning lineup, then later on the Cartoon Network's late-night "Adult Swim," it could be assumed that the show has two kinds of fans: younger viewers who appreciate the straightforward superhero beat-'em-up action, and older folks who tune in for the eccentric (and vaguely homoerotic) John K.-style humor. It's nearly certain that both sorts of Ripping Friends enthusiasts will be sorely disappointed by this Game Boy Advance release.
All four of the Ripping Friends are available as playable characters, but gamers must choose just one to guide through the entire adventure. Not only is there no way to switch heroes mid-mission, perhaps to make use of different skills in a show of manly teamwork, but it's not even possible to change characters between levels. Maybe this is less important an omission than it seems though, since all four characters offer the same basic jumping and punching moves, and suffer the same weak controls and collision-detection problems. The Ripping Friends all have different special abilities, but these come into play much less often than they could, and don't always seem to work very well anyway.
The game uses a combo system, with which the right trigger button can be held to produce different punches and rolls. Though the combos produce different animations, and there may be situations where the combo moves are a little more effective, most players could plod through the game at the same pace using only the standard punches and jumps. Each Ripping Friends hero offers a different mix in terms of speed, power, and jumping, but these distinctions are also nominal. Again, the faint variations are overwhelmed by frustrating level design and insipid enemy AI. The slightly different heroes and their slightly different moves all add up to the same unrewarding gameplay. The game's true challenge does not hinge on pouncing or punches, but patience.
The most annoying aspect of The Ripping Friends is its poor fighting engine -- a fatal flaw considering that fighting makes up almost all of the action. It's hard to judge just where a character should stand so that his fist will reach an enemy's chin. When a hit is scored, the bad guy will fall for a second or two, often blocking the hero's path. Enemies require multiple hits before they're dispatched, so a great deal of the game is spent maneuvering in and hoping for a decent punch, watching the enemy lie still for a while before it stands back up, then repeating. Since some levels require all enemies in an area to be eliminated before the hero is allowed to continue, the process quickly loses any minor appeal it may initially have.
An allotment of continues and a button-based password save system make it a little easier to progress through the story, but the hardest part of most levels is simply paying close enough attention to the dull gameplay. Even Jimmy the Idiot Boy would be bored with this uninspired translation of the Ripping Friends. The heroes -- not to mention featured arch-villains like Citrasett, Indigestible Wad, and even Evil Pooperman -- would be ashamed to have their names and (approximate) likenesses used in this un-buff, un-manly, un-enjoyable release. Still a big fan of the cartoon show? Cook your family a He-Mom-styled steak-and-eggs breakfast. Write a love letter to John Kricfalusi. Send away to Lions Gate for episodes of the show on VHS or DVD. Get a Spumco tattoo. There are so many better ways to spend your "Ripping Time" than with this game. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
The Ripping Friends heroes are somewhat recognizable, though mostly by the colors of their uniforms. Animations are weak, with too few frames per character. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
Character sounds are limited and lackluster. The tinny score tends to drone. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
The action is unforgivably awkward and monotonous for a game that's supposed to focus on superheroes who get jacked-up about "ripping" things. The fighting system is terrible in this fighting game. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
The tiresome adventure is the same no matter which Ripping Friend is chosen. The lack of a battery save hurts replay value, though the four-player link cable mode helps it, a little. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
The manual does a decent job with the bios of the heroes and villains, and describes the overall goals in each mission, but makes little or no attempt to explain the onscreen meters or gameplay mechanics. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide