Review – Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia

I have to commend Outright Games for keeping the flame of cartoon-based licensed games alive almost entirely by themselves. The publisher behind some surprising hits such as Crayola Scoot and Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, is planning to release a ton of licensed games over the second half of 2020. The first one being Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia, the first game based on Guillermo Del Toro’s Trollhunters hit animated show. Hey, he may not have managed to bring Silent Hill to life, but now he finally has a way to have one of his IPs turned into a game. Yay?

Trollhunters

Starting off the game with this bland as hell level wasn’t a very wise decision.

The Trollhunters show is one of the most surprising animated shows from the past few years. Not only does it have a cast comprised of Hollywood bigshots (Kelsey Grammer, Tom Hiddleston, Emile Hirsch, the late Anton Yelchin), but it also received tons of awards for its plot, detailed lore, and also the quality of its animation. It was but a matter of time for an acclaimed show like this one to eventually be turned into a game.

I was very excited when I found out that WayForward, the same people behind the Duck Tales remake and the Shantae games, were the ones behind its development. They know their stuff when it comes to 2D platformers. I was actually hoping for Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia to become a sleeper hit. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

I’m not going to beat around the bush. Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is a very, very basic 2D platformer that was definitely not developed by WayForward’s main team. This disappoints me deeply, as most games published by Outright are actually quite varied when it comes to their genre. Crayola Scoot was a robust Tony Hawk clone, the Adventure Time game was a competent turn-based RPG, and even Hotel Transylvania 3, as mediocre as it was, had some neat Pikmin-esque ideas. Trollhunters is just a simple action platformer with some collectibles, the simplest puzzles in gaming history, and a handful of mediocre minigames that try to spice things up a bit, albeit to no avail.

Trollhunters

This is one of the toughest enemies in the game. And it’s a total pushover.

It doesn’t look very good. Its visuals are beyond basic, with underwhelming backgrounds and character models. Your main character and the enemies you’re supposed to fight against look incredibly small onscreen. Plus their bland color palettes usually blend in with the ones from the environment, making the game really unpleasant to look at. It even uses Times New Roman as a font in some menus! The framerate isn’t ideal either. It gets worse when you play the game in co-op mode. I appreciate the fact that you actually can play this game with a friend, but considering the bland performance… don’t even bother.

The gameplay can best be described as “fine”. The controls are simple to learn, and that is commendable for a game aimed at a younger audience, but there isn’t a lot to do in here. In true SNES-era licensed gaming fashion, you run, jump, slide, and perform simple attacks. You can eventually befriend some characters from the show and that will allow you to occasionally call them to either help you in battle or solve some context-sensitive puzzle hindering your progress. Again, it’s fine, it’s harmless, but you’ve played a lot of similar games in the past. The only things that really differentiate this game from a myriad of other platformers out there are its Trollhunters setting and some very bland minigames that are best left ignored.

Trollhunters

No, this is not a mistake. This is a minigame featured in Trollhunters. It’s boring.

The best thing about Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is its sound department. Unlike the rest of the game’s presentation, it’s actually pretty good. There is a lot of voice acting in here, and while it doesn’t feature the star-studded cast from the show (let’s face it, this game’s budget isn’t exactly astronomical), everyone in here delivers a good performance. The soundtrack is also quite impressive, being fully orchestrated and well-composed. The game itself might be just passable at best, but at the very least, it’s pleasant to the ears at all times.

Trollhunters

Don’t you just love when your character blends in with the environment against your wishes?

Despite the involvement of WayForward in its development, Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is, at the very best, just an average platformer. It doesn’t offer anything new in terms of gameplay and definitely doesn’t impress when it comes to its visuals. It does have a killer soundtrack, though. Just like most “passable at best” licensed titles, it will please fans of the show, especially considering it features a brand new storyline, but it’s hard to recommend to anyone else. There are just way too many 2D platformers out there that offer way more in terms of presentation and gameplay.

 

Graphics: 4.0

A very basic-looking game with lots of reused assets and a less-than-ideal framerate. Some menus feature ultra basic fonts you wouldn’t even see in a school project.

Gameplay: 6.5

The controls are simple to learn, which is a bonus, but the overall gameplay is very basic and uninspired. You’ve played tons of similar platformers in the past.

Sound: 8.5

A silver lining. The orchestrated soundtrack is really good, and there is way more voice acting than I was expecting. It’s not bad, either.

Fun Factor: 6.0

It will appeal to fans of the show, considering it features a brand new storyline, as well as die-hard platforming enthusiasts. For anyone else, this is, at best, just a passable and generic licensed platformer.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia was provided by the publisher.