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May 2022

Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Teravision Games
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2021


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PC VR Review - 'Captain ToonHead vs. the Punks from Outer Space'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 17, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space is an FPS tower defense adventure in VR.

Of all of the genres that have made the jump to VR, tower defense might surprise people, but it also make the most sense. Go for the typical overhead viewpoint, and you get a more dynamic view of the field and more accurate unit placement. Go for the first-person perspective, and you get a familiar viewpoint for new players and something that feels more visceral. To that end, Captain ToonHead vs. The Punks from Outer Space doesn't add anything new to the genre, but it shouldn't be dismissed.

The opening sequence sets the tone for how goofy the game can get. Thanks to the efforts of the World Treaty for Freedom, the last major villain vying for world domination, Nicholas Voorhees, has been defeated and sent to a planet made entirely of garbage. The world had been at peace for a while until a surprise attack from Voorhees caught the planet off guard. In retaliation, the organization sent over a group of heroes to stop the threat once and for all, but an accident with burritos and a faulty microwave caused them all to die. The sole survivor is a janitor, Elliot Salazar, who is promoted to captain and tasked with fulfilling the mission despite having no combat experience.

The approach to humor is pretty hit-and-miss, and that continues as the game progresses. The lines can be groan-worthy, and the references to more popular media have been used so much that their obviousness doesn't make them funnier. The banter between the cube leaders and the ship AI is fine, and the same goes for the dialogue coming from the main villain. Perhaps the most humorous parts come from the weapons and little details that are shown off, such as a figure of a dog on top of one of the laser pistols or one of your weapons being a slipper. They're cute to have, but few would classify this as an outright funny game.

If you're familiar with VR tower defense titles, then you know what to expect from Captain ToonHead. From wherever you are, you can point at a spot to build a tower, and construction is almost instantaneous. Enemies also never attack towers, so you don't have to worry about rebuilding during a fight. Your towers consist of a few tried-and-true types like a regular turret, a freeze gun, and one providing splash damage. While they're good at preventing most of the enemy units from taking away the sentient cubes you need to save, you'll rely on your pistols (and eventually your chancla) to take down most of the forces. Between levels, the cubes can be used to upgrade multiple things, from your towers to your guns to your rocket. You can level-up your towers and eventually take over the shooting.

The game also gives you two different viewpoints to play. With the press of a button, you can take an overhead view of the battlefield, which works fine for turret placement in the vicinity of your character, since you can't get a completely unobstructed view of the field from this view. You're also placed far enough into the sky that enemies can look tiny, but you can see them approaching. Go back to the ground, and you have a first-person perspective, which provides you a better vantage point to shoot from, but the tradeoff is loss of accuracy when it comes to targeting certain platforms or weapons. You can also use this perspective to warp between spots to get better vantage points, but doing so means having to constantly turn after landing to face the field of foes.

For the most part, the gameplay is enjoyable. The tracking for your guns is rather accurate, and even though some further towers can be a bother, the controls are pretty easy to get a handle on. Switching weapons is also easy to do, but it would've been nice if you were able to give one hand a blaster and the other hand a hammer, so players can create and upgrade towers and collect gears for said tower creation.

If there's one thing that you might be taken aback by, it's the pacing of your upgrades. While the pacing is fine in going between levels and seeing new enemy units, you'll get almost all of your weapons and towers by the time you reach the third level. Thanks to the low cost of upgrades, you'll reach the fourth level highly powered up. After a few more levels, things slow down dramatically to where new stuff is drip-fed to you late in the campaign. It feels uneven, especially if you aim for getting the upgrade to show off enemy weak spots, and the game starts to lose its challenge until you get much closer to the end.

One thing that might surprise you is the game's length, as the campaign clocks in at around six hours. That might fall on the short side for a normal game, but it's quite lengthy for VR, especially when you consider that most of the early big titles come in at around half that time unless you're going for a 100% completion rate. That's a good sign for those who want to see longer experiences on the platform, and the good news is that the campaign doesn't feel like a chore. The waves don't get lengthy until you reach the game's back half.

The use of Unreal Engine on a VR game pays off dividends for the presentation, even if it means a few sacrifices. The game uses a ton of colors to achieve a cartoon-like look without using cel-shading, and the designs for the characters, environments and towers carry have exaggerated appearances. The title isn't popping with a ton of special effects, but the frame rate holds up so the experience feels smooth. There are only a few flaws that you can see, and one has to do with characters that are far away; their lowered frame rate is very noticeable, and they can appear to be skipping — akin to an online game with a spotty connection. There's also the issue of some textures taking a while to load, something you expect with a game using Unreal Engine. Meanwhile, the audio fares well, with a good soundtrack and voice acting that does its best with the intentionally hammy lines.

Captain ToonHead vs. The Punks from Outer Space is a fun time. The game may have some quirks (e.g., warping between spots requires reorientation), but the combat remains entertaining, especially since the game has a simpler approach. The upgrade flow can initially seem uneven, but the levels are never impossible, and the game's overall length makes up for the lack of post-campaign features. It may not be the best VR tower defense title, but it is enjoyable for those who are willing to jump in.

Score: 7.0/10

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