Disney, TT Games and Activision have all proven that kids games don’t need to be shovelware. Instead of continuing that trend and further expanding the genre, developer Prope decided it would be a good idea to blatantly rip-off its competition. The only problem is, Prope doesn’t seem to understand what makes these other games fun in the first place. Digimon All-Star Rumble is nothing more than a poor man’s Skylanders with badly inspired Smash Bros. arena combat. Digimon Rumble Arena on the original Playstation already tried to cash in on Nintendo’s success and failed, although the gameplay was strikingly more energetic and fun.
There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by other developers’ work. Disney Infinity clearly follows Activision’s formula, but at least they’re injecting their own ideas and personality. Unfortunately, Digimon All-Star Rumble is a disaster and does nothing to set itself apart. It takes good ideas and breaks them. It’s repetitive, oftentimes unplayable and probably one of the ugliest last-gen games in years.
Sometimes it’s best to judge a book by its cover. If the gaudy 3D Digimon renderings on the cover aren’t indicative of the game’s poor quality, then the horrid screenshots on the back certainly are. The low asking price doesn’t help either. While high production values and innovative gameplay aren’t necessary to have some mindless fun with a popular kids’ franchise, Digimon All-Star Rumble barely passes as a finished product. Jumping between button-mashing and unresponsive controls isn’t characteristic of a good time. Small developers have proven that creativity and talent aren’t defined by a publisher’s budget. Sadly, All-Star rumble feels like a result of the developers’ apathy and disregard for the project.
"Digimon All-Star Rumble is nothing more than a poor man’s Skylanders with badly inspired Smash Bros. arena combat."
All-Star Rumble takes linearity to a whole new level of awful. There are 12 playable Digimon, each with their own brief storyline. The game can be played solo, but it’s designed with multiplayer in mind, supporting up to four players in battle. Every chapter consists of small, segmented levels and an end boss fight within a confined arena. Levels take less than a minute to beat, and that’s when taking it slow. Each Digimon has three different attacks and an unresponsive block command. Going through levels consists of mashing buttons and flipping switches to open gates. There’s no exploration and the “treasure chests” usually just sit there in clear sight.
Digimon All-Star Rumble’s biggest attraction, the battle arenas, is also the game’s biggest disgrace. Imagine Smash Bro. completely stripped of everything that makes it enjoyable. Instead of multi-leveled platforms with exciting power-ups and chaotic action, gamers are left with mashing buttons around barren arenas with derivative special attacks and lousy transformations. The developers couldn’t even get the button-mashing right. The controls are unresponsive and the blocking rarely works. It’s impossible to block mid combo, or even mid attack, and the Digimon has to face his opponent perfectly for the punches to connect. The AI either just stands there and takes a beating or attacks like a rabid dog. Later levels introduce some interesting obstacles, like a speed train that deals extra damage, but it barely reaches mediocrity.
"It’s hard to say who Digimon All-Star Rumble is for. Even the most die-hard Digimon fans won’t be able to ignore the game’s abysmal quality."
All-Star Rumble’s most notable feature is also its most underutilized one. Players can collect DigiCards to strengthen Digimons in battle, but the perks are just basic enhancements like health and EP boosts or the ability to lower the opponent’s stats. Only two cards can be equipped before each battle. This would have been a wonderful opportunity to expand on the Skylanders concept. Instead of collecting action figures, players could collect cheaper, but equally effective, trading cards to use in-game. It’s a wasted opportunity.
It’s hard to say who Digimon All-Star Rumble is for. Even the most die-hard Digimon fans won’t be able to ignore the game’s abysmal quality. If it weren’t for the Digimon brand, this would easily rank as one of the year’s worst games. It’s a real shame, because this is a complete waste of a great licence. Parents beware, this isn’t the type of gift you want to leave under the Christmas tree.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 3