Cartoon Wars: Blade is the latest in the Cartoon Wars series, but takes a bit of a departure from previous titles. Whereas Cartoon Wars and Cartoon Wars 2: Heroes were based more on real-time strategy and defense, Blade hews a little closer to the spin-off title, Cartoon Wars: Gunner, which placed players on a 3/4 perspective field and had them run back and forth, shooting anything that hopped onto the screen.
Blade plays much the same way, but gives you a bit more variety in the weapons you can use. Weapons are broken down into three categories: Short Swords, Long Swords (which feature as many staffs and spears as anything), and guns. In addition to upgrading each of these to improve your offensive prowess, you can also increase the defensive stats of your helmets, which feature their own distinct designs as well.
This game plays much like Gunner, though with more melee attacks. As such, it reminds us somewhat of Konami’s old arcade beat-’em-up titles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in particular. Jumping is removed from the equation, which eliminates a dodge option, but that means you won’t be struck down during a jump-kick and splattered against the wall. You move across a short playing field, attacking anything that comes within swinging distance by pressing left or right on the right virtual thumbstick. Attacks change according to a meter between your shorter-ranged but faster short swords, your slower-but-lengthier staffs/ long swords, and periodically, you’ll get to switch to your firearm, which makes the game play even more like Gunner for a short time.
Your goal, for what it’s worth, is to kill everything and grow stronger. That really is pretty much it, and while Blade features 20 dungeons, it also has “unlimited” levels to help you accomplish this feat. As you continue to fight in battles, you’ll earn gold and gems to upgrade your equipment to better engage the ever-stronger forces of new enemy types that emerge as you progress. But the prices tend to be high, and you can purchase more cartoon currency on your very real iTunes account and negate the grinding aspect to some degree.
The game feels polished, with the amusing combination of simplistic characters who look like they crawled out of the margins of your math notebook placed against more scenic backdrops. The music is nice and energetic to keep things going, and the combat is very simple and intuitive.
What may divide some people, however, is that while the game looks, sounds, and plays well, it’s also a shallow experience. Your goal is pretty much to simply kill everything and grow stronger, and there is little else in the way of progression. The stages feel like little more than backdrops for the action, and as varied as they may be, there’s a sense of pointlessness to it all– enough so that it’s almost like it’s a part of some deeper message about the pointlessness of endless violence or something. If that’s what they’re playing for, then the developers have done a good job of conveying it as you kill more and more and become stronger, yet wonder what it’s all for.
At $0.99, Cartoon Wars: Blade makes a nice little time-waster to pull out for a few quick sessions here and there as you attempt to become the strongest of all stick figures. Beyond that, however, it’s difficult to imagine playing this one for very long periods of time before getting bored and wanting to put it away for a while.