Posted by Dustin Spencer on Aug 27, 2011

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World – Review

Game Name: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World
Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Publisher(s): Majesco Entertainment
Developer(s): OneNineStudios LLC
Genre(s): Platformer
Release Date: August 12, 2011 (US)
Price: $19.99
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Based on the movie of the same name, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World brings together both young heroes from the film and turns them toon in a platforming adventure. I know this title may be ignored by some due to the famed “movie-to-game” curse or simply due to the younger audience targeted, but there is actually a bit more that meets the eye with this one. With that said, there are still a few elements to hold this Spy Kids romp away from achieving its true potential on the Nintendo DS. So how do these little spies measure up to other contenders of the same genre on the platform? Here is my review for Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.

Story
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World starts the player out with the main characters, Cecil and Rebecca, heading off to school. In a matter of seconds, the evil Timekeeper reveals himself and lets it be known that he is fittingly out to control “All the time in the World”. After talking with their robot dog, both Cecil and Rebecca set out to infiltrate the Timekeeper’s hideout and take time back once and for all.

I will admit this whole story is a bit cheese-tastic, but considering the audience the game is targeted for, it certainly should be a sufficient enough plot for anyone to follow. I did however feel that more could have been added to tell this tale, as the lack of voicework, sound effects, or even animation during these “cutscenes” really didn’t give a whole lot of substance or personality to any character involved. Throughout the game, this way of story-telling remains the same, so even though events are unfolding and the game makes sure you have a purpose to progress, I simply couldn’t get behind the heroes I was controlling. Now I also didn’t watch the movie, so I would guess that those who have seen the flick could easily attach the on-screen personalities and plotlines into this title, but those who missed the film may be a little underwhelmed with Spy Kid’s quickie narrative.

Gameplay
Back when Spy Kids: All the Time in the World was first announced for the DS, the main thing that captured my attention was how this title is in fact a 2D platformer, which is one of my favorite genres for the platform. Now after playing the game, I can definitely say that OneNineStudio’s did a fine job with this entry into the platformer market, but there are still a few flaws that make the experience more frustrating than it needs to be.

During the game, players are taken through over 20 levels, either controlling Cecil or Rebecca. Both of these kids control nearly the same, as the controls are rather solid when it comes to the standard fare of just running and jumping. To make each kid feel distinct though, each feature their own special abilities to utilize the current level’s design. For instance, Rebecca wields a grappling hook which can attach to specific surfaces, allowing her to climb up or swing across a level quickly while Cecil has a double jump, giving him the ability to jump a bit higher onto platforms.

Each kid also has their own objectives they must complete to progress as well. Rebecca’s levels usually are made up of a “find your way out” formula and Cecil must find keys to unlock doors. It sounds simple enough, but I found each to be a bit of a chore due to the punishing consequences for failure. Rebecca’s grappling hook honestly works great, but if the timing is not absolutely perfect when triggering, she will fall all the way to the ground and leave the player to spend 20 minutes just trying to get back up the previous platform. The stage design is rather clever for these levels, but I didn’t feel like I enjoyed it as much as I could have as I constantly was falling and having to take the long trek to the top over and over. Now aside from this gripe, I will say out of both “kids”, Rebecca was a lot more polished in terms of controls and it is hard not to admire the crafty placing of platforms for her stages.

Cecil on the other hand is a lot more lop-sided in terms of polish. The double jump works well..or just as one would expect, but many times our young lad will be forced to do battle with enemies in order to collect a key or simply progress further. This wouldn’t be a big deal normally, but Cecil’s hand to hand combat skills are very short range and slow. I would be fighting an enemy, landing every punch, and still take a considerable amount of damage just because I was too close. This effect is magnified later on in the game, as luck and a few special attacks seem to be the only answer to actually defeating a large boss with Cecil.

To combat both character’s rather short arsenal, three special attacks are given at the start of a level for defeating enemies. Rebecca has a variety of bombs that vary in damage depending on who they are tossed at, and Cecil has a fireball projectile along with a ground punch and an uppercut for assisting in close combat. While these all can be useful, the player must be thrifty when executing these special moves, as there is only a limited amount of times each can be used. Oddly enough, if you character dies during a mission, they must start over completely with whatever remaining specials you had left (if any at all). I thought this choice was very out of place and felt like another form of punishment for dying on top of the whole restarting a level from the beginning bit. During boss battles, these limited special attacks definitely put a damper on the whole experience as with Cecil, players are left with just the short, slow punches and kicks to take out the foe.

One thing that I did however enjoy was some of the extra levels that are thrown in to change up the gameplay a bit. There is a rather forgettable memory game thrown in, but the one that really stuck out was an R-Type like shoot-em-up section that had the player controlling a small ship while traversing to the next area. This whole element worked well and while out of place, I really feel this was one of the game’s shining moments.

Graphics/Audio
I can’t really say that Spy Kids: All the Time in the World really shines in visuals as it is best compared to the platformers we seen on the Game Boy Advance. However, I did feel that the cartoon sprites do their job well enough though and each level is fairly detailed throughout the whole game. Animations for the game are decent, though each kid runs a bit like a robot and when mass amounts of sprites are on the screen at once, some slowdown can occur. I would imagine though that the bright colors and happy-go-lucky character designs should catch the eyes of younger players though, as the environments blend well with the art style provided.

The music in the game is a bit hit and miss, as some tracks are re-used and looped constantly throughout each level. There was one level however that stuck out as it was made up of clocks and had ticking and grinding noises being blended together with a catchy beat. Other than music, there isn’t much sound to speak of as the characters have no voices whatsoever and cutscenes are made of pure text. A few sound bytes would have went miles into making these kids come to life, but instead players just get two lifeless protagonists to control in a bubbly and upbeat environment.

Overall
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World is by no means a bad game, as the controls are solid and the game is fairly lengthy considering the platform and genre. Sadly though, the final product just didn’t come together too well and a lack of detail and polish is to blame. Some levels are frustrating and the trial and error gameplay can lead to a feel of monotony replacing any actual challenge. A bit more work on the presentation would have also went a long way, as animations are stiff and robotic and the lack of audio for the main characters rob them of any true personality. That being said, there is some great ideas within this game and if you’re a platforming fan with patience or have a child that is a die-hard fan of the 4D flick, this title is certainly worth a look.

I Give Spy Kids: All the Time in the World:
6-5-capsules-out-of-10

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