Sorry Digimon fans, but your prayers have not been answered. Not by a long shot.
Though a confirmed Pokemaniac myself, I've always felt that Digimon is prime videogame material. Epic transforming battle monsters should be perfect fare for any number of genres, and most of the games have proved me right -- even if none made it out of Japan over the last few years. Cue Digimon: All-Star Rumble, a Western-exclusive title promising high-octane combat and frantic local multiplayer.
You'd have to wake up pretty early in the morning to make outrageous monster brawls boring and dull, but All-Star Rumble pulls it off. This would actually be impressive if the result wasn't so painfully weak... and costs £44.99 at full whack.
Premise time! The Digimon have grown bored of peace and tranquillity, so decide to fight each other. That's it. This flimsy excuse for a story is delivered solely through atrociously written matter-of-fact storyboards that resemble poorly-translated Japanese dialogue, which is bizarre considering that the game isn't even releasing outside of Regions 1, 2 and 4.
In gameplay terms, this boils down to choosing one of a dozen Digimon, then 'exploring' some incredibly small levels consisting of tiny arenas linked together by narrow corridors and the occasional switch puzzle. It's woefully primitive fare that evokes the ratty licensed titles from years past; gates locking as small numbers of recycled enemies spawn in for you to polish off with a few simple attacks.
Unhelpful shuddering camerawork, limp visuals and terrible sound design (each attack has only one sound effect, which is usually the Digimon just saying the name of the attack over and over again) make All-Star Rumble feel older than it is, not to mention shonky and extraordinarily unambitious. It's every cookie-cutter brawler you've ever played, only worse, and packing production values that betray a serious lack of effort.
After roughly two hours you'll reach the end (perhaps more if you run afoul of rogue difficulty spikes and a lack of checkpointing), choose the next character and do exactly the same thing again, with only the tiniest variations to level design and some slightly different dialogue.
Every once in a while, though, you can enter battle with one of the named Digimon, at which point you'll throw down in a timed arena battle that feels a little like a cross between Power Stone and Super Smash Bros. Though arenas are unsurprisingly incredibly primitive in terms of geometry and design, these matches feel a lot more exciting than the field maps, due to satisfyingly powerful transformation abilities (this is a Digimon game after all, so Digivolve!) and a clever collectible trading card mechanic that unlocks some unique one-shot skills.
Sadly, however, each Digimon's attacks are limited and cumbersome, embarrassingly requiring a dedicated attack cancel button because combos are somewhat clunky and limited, while the camera once again does a terrible job of keeping the action in frame. It's not quite as bad as Ken's Rage 2, I suppose, since it is at least fun for a fleeing few minutes once battle is joined.
Thankfully, All-Star Rumble is a lot more enjoyable in local multiplayer. Misery loves company, I suppose, but some more varied gametypes and fun situational powerups make for a manic experience. Blasting your mate with a massive rocket at the critical moment never gets old, and fans will probably enjoy settling some arguments over which Digimon would win out in a head-to-head battle. Many of whom will buy this in a misguided attempt to encourage Bandai Namco to make or localise more Digimon titles.
But there are so many better brawlers and local multiplayer fighting games available on PS3, let alone newer systems, and All-Star Rumble has the gall to charge an astonishing £44.99 on the PlayStation Store. Though retailers are rightfully charging a lot less for physical copies, there's barely enough content here to justify a £10-15 digital release, while the quality and production values simply don't deserve this much of your money. All-Star Battle could have been a fun downloadale throwaway distraction if the terrible field maps had been cut out to focus on the multiplayer action -- perhaps with, you know, some online functionality? -- but hindsight is a harsh mistress indeed.
Here's hoping that Bandai Namco looks to re-release or even remake some of the games we missed, or localise Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth for the West rather than embarking on another lacklustre spinoff. Considering the quality of Bandai Namco's recent anime output, All-Star Rumble is a major disappointment and a serious mis-step.
- Can be fleeing fun in local multiplayer
- Some nifty powerups and Digivolution
- Collectible card mechanic is clever if under-utilized
- Primitive, repetitive, boring and generic brawling gameplay
- Terrible camerawork and clunky battling
- Appalling production values and value for money
The Short Version: Western Digimon fans will have to keep waiting for a great contemporary tie-in, because All-Star Rumble ain't it. This limp and primitive brawler feels like a cheap unlicensed knock-off, yet commands a truly silly retail price. Avoid.
3 – BAD: Undeniably bad. Games that get a 3 or under actively alienate and push away the gamer with their faults. It’s here that you’ll start getting glaring technical issues that prevent you from getting even a sniff of enjoyment from the game. Even the most rabid of fanboys would have trouble defending games that fall into this zone.
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed) | Xbox 360
Publisher: Bandai Namco