Review: Captain Toonhead vs The Punks from Outer Space

Captain Toonhead vs The Punks from Outer Space, that’s quite the mouthful when it comes to lengthy videogame titles yet it perfectly illustrates ARVORE’s latest virtual reality (VR) project. Coming from the same studio that brought you the Pixel Ripped series, Captain Toonhead is a bombastic marriage of comic book design and tower defence gameplay. Nowhere else can you fight cybernetic T-Rexs with exploding pigs and electric pizza slices.

Tower defence games don’t tend to be too outlandish in their presentation so Captain Toonhead offers a welcome change. Big, bold visual designs, weird characters, an over-the-top villain and a not so subtle slice of humour running throughout. In the world of Captain Toonhead you’re on a mission to save the world from the evil Nicholas Voorhees and his army of chickens and sharks. A crack team of recruits was sent to deal with the situation but unfortunately, a faulty microwave and a red hot burrito killed them all. So it’s up to you as Elliott Salazar, a space janitor who’s handy with a set of tools to complete the mission.    

So like any tower defence title you’re tasked with building defensive turrets (or Toonrets), halting the advance of Voorhees’ army across a series of ever more complicated maps. If you’re familiar with the genre then all the usual basics are here, a cheap rocket tower is your instant go-to, whilst a freezing Toonret slows enemies down, and the Senor PIGnata throws explosives for area effect damage. They all have their own firing rates and range so careful placement for maximum damage is always essential, with limited locations on each map.

Where Captain Toonhead starts shaking things up is with your player abilities. There is a number that you have to juggle to successfully complete each level, and it’s this variety in combination with the silly nature of the whole experience that makes Captain Toonhead, fun and absolutely hectic to play. First up are your TurboMjolnirs which are essentially little hammers. These babies are used to collect scrap dropped by enemies so you can build more Toonrets as well as upgrade the towers from a distance. Even more useful are the two handguns which you’ll be using a lot, such as the enemy design that you cannot sit back and let the Toonrets do all the work, you’ll fail. Plus that’s just boring. Finally, amongst this selection of tools are the Chancla – or more precisely a pair of flip flops). What happens if you hit someone with one of these sandy shoes, they’ll probably stagger and look stunned for a moment; that’s exactly what happens here. Stun those enemies with a Chancla to the face!

The goal on each map is to protect these little bundles of literal energy called EnerCubes. Protecting them isn’t just vital to finish each level, you’ll need them to upgrade your kit, all of which is upgradable. Towers can be improved so you can level them up during a mission, your guns can be made more devastating, hammers even faster and flip flops even more stunning. Skill tree’s need to offer a decent variety so that players can make their own strategic choices and Captain Toonhead delivers just the right amount without it getting too silly.

As mentioned, Captain Toonhead gives you options, which means plenty of juggling in the later levels when there are multiple routes to contend with. Once you’ve got things started with a couple of turrets placed you can mix and match between staying next to the EnerCubes to protect them yourself, jump into a tower to shoot enemies with your handguns, collect scrap with your TurboMjolnirs or unleash your secret weapon, the ToonRide. Quickly putting your hands above your head activates this devastating ability, giving you direct control of the Toonret. Or if you’re next to the goal, up pop two electrified pizza slices to serve up some major damage.

Switching between all of these makes Captain Toonheads’ levels an absolute onslaught for several minutes, especially once the opponent variety starts to improve. Enemies in tower defence games don’t need to be smart, they follow precise routes and patterns that are easy to track. They’ll get tougher and add armour but more importantly – where it comes to involving you – elements like the health balloons and force fields actively require your participation. Take the force field, for example, drones will protect an individual which your Toonrets just won’t attack, you have to get down there and shoot them off yourself for your defences to activate. It’s a little thing but a level can easily be lost when three routes all have them on.

However, Captain Toonhead isn’t an entirely colourful utopia of tower defence gaming. At times it can feel really inflexible, especially during the early stage of any level. You can boost skywards to get a lay of the land yet there’s no way to move around other than jumping between towers. This makes placing defences quite finicky at a distance, forcing you to build nearby until you’ve got some more towers out. The animations at distance can also look almost stop-motion, enemies movement’s only smoothing out the closer you get.

The spaceship hub where you choose levels and upgrade equipment is also a bit of an enigma. Captain Toonhead has a very “playground” feel to it all and the hub is no different. It’s very busy and looks super interactive yet barely anything is. You can teleport around to several locations within the ship yet there’s nothing to do. Seems a bit of a waste considering how lively the whole set-up is, you’d think being able to pop balloons or use the target would be available, increasing that sense of immersion.  

Captain Toonhead vs The Punks from Outer Space is a ludicrous tower defence experience and all the better for it. The gameplay is pure entertainment from start to finish, with plenty of character and bravado that you really shouldn’t take it too seriously. There are a couple of wobbles along the way and there is certainly room for some finesse in the mechanics. If you’re looking for the ultimate VR tower defence title then this isn’t it. If you want humour, strategy and guns, then you’ve come to the right place.

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