Platforms: *GameCube, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, GameBoy Advance
Year Released: 2005
Who doesn't remember good old Nickelodeon...as in, back in the old days when it was good? I miss 90s Nick as much as the next nostalgia biased young adult, although to be fair it was still solid going into the new millienium and didn't really go down the crapper until the end of this past decade. Back in junior high, my friends and I were all cartoon nerds, especially Nicktoons. As such, my anticipation went through the roof when I saw the commercial for this game. Danny Phantom, SpongeBob Squarepants, Jimmy Neutron and Timmy Turner teaming up to take on their respective arch-enemies who have also formed a team? Hell to the yeah! This was like the 2005 Nickelodeon fan's equivalent of The Avengers as far as famous hero team-ups go.
The story is that Professor Calamitous from Jimmy Neutron has recruited Plankton, Mr. Crocker, and Vlad Plasmius to form a group called "The Syndicate" and together they plan to take over the Nicktoons Universe. Hopefully after they come up with a more creative and scary name. In response, Jimmy Neutron recruits SpongeBob, Timmy Turner, and Danny Phantom to help stop them.
The game plays much like a traditional beat 'em up. You start the level, pick one of the four playable characters, and you traverse the map beating the Nickelodeon slime out of minions. The levels in the game are of course familiar Nickelodeon locales like Bikini Bottom, Fairy World, Amity Park, etc, and along the way you will meet up with supporting characters from each world who act as NPCs that help you on your quest.
The words "beat 'em up" imply "mindless button mashing-fest", but fortunately Nicktoons Unite is more than that. There are plenty of puzzles to solve before you can move forward thanks to each characters' special abilities in addition to their combat movesets. Some of the puzzles require a fair amount of thought, and you will also need to use the abilities to help the team. For example whoever is playing as Danny Phantom might need to phase through a barrier to get a health pack for everyone, and there are certain enemies that can only be defeated by certain characters. All these elements combine to make this one of those rare beat 'em ups that actually require a significant degree of communication and coordination with your teammates to stay alive and get ahead. You also earn XP throughout the level which can be used to upgrade your character.
To be honest though, much of the game's charm lies in its sheer novelty factor. Like I said it is The Avengers for Nicktoons fans. Nick even milked the success and made a franchise out of this, with each sequel adding more and more Nicktoons franchises to the mix. Though the gameplay is pretty decent, seeing all our favorite Nicktoons at the time come together and interact was the real reason most of us ponied up for it. It makes me wonder why they never did an actual adaptation of it on the channel via a movie or something, but having the experience in video game form was good enough. If you are a Nickelodeon fan with any of the 2005 era consoles lying around, you owe it to yourself to have in your collection. Especially all these years later, if for no other reason than to remember the good old pre-2009 era of Nickelodeon when SpongeBob was entertaining and before we had an amalgamation spin-off of the two shows that represent what's wrong with the network today.