Player two needs ham badly!
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy on Cartoon Network is among the best animated shows currently on the air. Like so many other greats, Billy & Mandy smuggles adult humor through a child-friendly visage, making its episodes fun for the whole family. Midway's The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy on Wii successfully transfers the franchise's cheerfully morbid persona into an amusing, if shallow, fighter.
The show centers on little Mandy and her imbecile friend Billy, who have hoodwinked the Grim Reaper into being their best friend forever over a bet. Grim is a jolly reaper and rather lax at his job. Borderline evil Mandy associates herself with Grim to see (and exploit) his supernatural gizmos, treasures, and buddies. Billy thoroughly enjoys being the subject of Mandy's abuse and may as well be Stimpy (from The Ren & Stimpy Show) with his disgustingly endearing habits.
So why bother with the back-story? Midway worked very closely with Cartoon Network's staff to make an authentic B&M experience, and it shows. The game's story mode is simply another of Grim and Company's off-kilter, self-demeaning adventures, written, directed, and voice acted by Cartoon Network staff. Whether you're new to Billy & Mandy or a long-time viewer, you'll appreciate the energy spent and suddenly realize a fighter's story modes don't have to be totally void of story.
It's a shame the story mode isn't longer, too, because it is the best reason to play the game. Not that the gameplay is horrible—it's quite playable—but it is only good for short spurts. Up to four players can choose among many characters from the grim world of Billy & Mandy, such as "special" monster Fred Fredburger; hapless nerd Irwin; or Billy's dimwitted dad, Mogar. The free-for-all carnage ensues with an overhead view similar to Power Stone for the Dreamcast. Players can whoop each other with quick or strong attacks, or they can grab and use various items ranging from cursed swords to the banana crossbow. The levels are similarly quirky, as a battle will often progress through two or three distinct stages. For example, a skirmish in The Pumpkin Patch will find itself chased downtown by a menacing pumpkin monster, and a battle starting in the Chicken Mines will somehow find its way to the roof of a school bus.
But all of its clever gizmos and silly level designs cannot save the game from underdeveloped fighting mechanics. Players move around with the control stick, dash with Z, and grab with C. Players jump (and double-jump) with A, perform a light attack with B, and flick the remote for a heavy attack. If you can collect enough mojo (balls of energy) scattered about the level, you can perform one of two powerful attacks by flicking the nunchuck. To deliver the final KO, you must rather uncomfortably aim the Wiimote to highlight a series of circles on the screen. Overall this scheme would be fine, except every character handles sluggishly—in fact, every character handles identically, resulting in an unsatisfying, mushy slash-a-thon. What's more, the promising weaponry gets lost in the chaos, since characters drop their items upon taking any damage. In short, the battles get old fast. I suppose you could switch things up by plugging in a GameCube controller, which uses buttons for the heavy attack and the final KO sequence, but the differences are minimal.
Billy & Mandy has the beginnings of a decent fighting game, but its unrefined battle system is only suitable as party fodder. Billy & Mandy is worth a rental for its excellent, funny video game adaptation of the show, but fifty bucks is far too steep for this quick GameCube port.