25 June 2008






















































Looney Tunes Cartoon Conductor (DS)

Or Ouendan Bunny, to give it a more fitting name. This should be the best thing ever, right? Combine the awesomeness of two of the DS's defining games (we don't count Elite Beat Agents here) with classic Warner cartoons and you can't go wrong, surely? Well, only a bit.

The track-select screen doesn't look like this preview shot any more. Man!

It starts off abysmally, forcing you through a tutorial even though you already know how to play bloody Ouendan, as it's sold a trillion copies everywhere. Hit Start to try to skip the tutorial and the only options you get are "Quit" (back to the menu) and "Restart" (back to the start of the tutorial, hngh). Resist smashing your DS at this point and you eventually find out that there's a slight tickle to the controls - you have to keep the stylus on the screen throughout any given sequence (1-2-3-4 etc), though you can lift it between sequences - but nothing that couldn't have been explained in a line of text. Oh, and there's also a replacement for Ouendan's disc-spinning sections, where instead notes fall down the screen and you have to tap them as they hit the circles at the bottom like an upside-down Dance Dance Revolution, but that one's incredibly obvious without instruction.

(The restart thing, incidentally, also applies in-game. So if you get an itchy nose, or drop the stylus, or have to answer the phone and you hit Start to pause, you're not actually pausing. The only places to go after that are back to the song menu or back to the start of the stage you're on, which is so idiotic it defies all rational sense.)

So grit your teeth and after a couple of minutes you'll get to the game. Three difficulty levels are available straight away (Apprentice, Conductor and Maestro), so obviously you start on the middle one. It's basically classic Ouendan from here on in - beating tracks unlocks new ones a couple at a time. There are 12 in all, plus six "remixes", and the music is all classical (in the broader sense of the word), accompanied by upper-screen interpretations of favourite LB cartoons like Robin Hood Daffy and Rabbit Of Seville, portrayed in that annoying polygon style that seems to be de rigeur for cartoon games, even though it makes no obvious sense compared to doing them properly in 2D like the originals.

The stylus graphic only appears on the beginner stages.

The music is splendidly done, with a full-blooded orchestra for you to conduct along to. (I forgot to mention that you're playing a conductor. In a nice touch, you have to triple-tap the screen at the start to get the orchestra's attention) The selection of tracks, though, is bizarre. For almost every familiar favourite obviously suited to the game like the William Tell Overture or Ride Of The Valkyries, there's a godawful dirge like Mars, The Bringer Of War by Holst, with no obvious tune and which you have to play entirely visually by following the shrinking circles and squares. Get to the end (and on medium difficulty it's a bit more forgiving than Ouendan) and you'll get applause depending on your rating - a full-blown ovation for an A or S, one guy sarcastically clapping by himself for a C - and move on. Beating levels unlocks character bios and various sound samples. (You can also get a super-elusive S+ rating, incidentally, for which you'll have to hit EVERY step in a level.)

On the good tunes, LTCC is a sheer joy. The William Tell Overture brings to mind the joyous sequence in Brassed Off, and you'll be sweeping the stylus around with glorious flamboyant flourishes like a pro, while the Mexican Hat Dance of Speedy Gonzales, Foghorn Leghorn's extract from Carmen, and Barber Of Seville are almost as enjoyable. And the final song, a staggeringly brutal sequence based around the Can-Can, is still addictive and fun thanks to the music. (Cleverly, when you miss a note the orchestra gets it wrong too, leading to a horrible off-key cacophony that makes you desperate to rescue the situation, but makes it harder to follow the tune as fair punishment for your error.)

On the bad stuff, though, it's absolutely miserable. Whoever thought to accompany the magnificent kinetic verve of Devil May Hare with the meandering multi-paced mess of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody wants their face kicking off with running spikes, and Sylvester and Tweety's accompaniment of Bach's well-known Toccata and Fugue is sheer purgatory, and not what you might be expecting/hoping for if you remember the famous part of the tune. Wile E Coyote and Road Runner's stage is mangled too, with a rendition of Flight Of The Bumble Bee that bears not the slightest discernible relation to the onscreen steps, and is the worst stage by a distance.

Of the 12 non-remixed tracks, there are basically seven good ones and five bad.

Worst of all are the "remixes", where six of the 12 tunes are given utterly horrible modern jazzings-up, which even to a total classical-music philistine like me are bad enough to be sacrilegious. Every single one of them is toweringly awful, ruining even William Tell and the Can-Can, and the game would have been better with them left out entirely, never mind replaced by half-a-dozen proper tracks. (At least it picks the better tunes to ruin, so you don't have to suffer a double whammy of a remixed "Toccata and Fugue".)

This reviewer zipped through the medium Conductor difficulty level in not much over an hour (though the Can-Can took a lot of tries) but with mostly poor ratings, and will be replaying it to get better ones, at least on the non-remixed tracks. First, though, came the hard and extreme (unlocked by beating hard) settings, and that's when things start to get really entertaining. On Maestro, the number of steps in each bar takes a big jump upwards, which in many ways is actually a help as it means you don't have to try to figure out which beats the game's going to put them on - there are so many they're almost on every note, and it's simply a matter of keeping track of the blizzard of circles and squares cascading onto the screen and hitting them in time and in the right order (it's uncannily similar to the skills required to play the TIE-Fighter battle in the original Star Wars arcade game).

In Looney mode, however, even the toughest settings of the Ouendan games look like a walk in the park. The tidal wave of steps to hit never lets up, requiring not only memory but the skill to slide across the screen in a split second without hitting any of the wrong ones. Worse yet, the breaks that are present in the other difficulty levels - where you get a few seconds of respite to stop, wipe your palms, gather your thoughts and watch the upper-screen cartoon - are cruelly discarded, with the barrage of steps continuous from start to finish, often requiring machine-gun-like speed and with the effect of a bum note absolutely catastrophic to your chances of finding your place again. Beat a Looney level, though, and the sense of exhilaration is absolutely huge - you'll want to save the replay and watch it over and over. (Bizarrely you get 11 save slots, one too few to save your best run on each of the different tunes.)  And on both Maestro and Looney, you'll be so busy trying to hit the steps that you'll hardly notice how terrible the remixed tracks are, which is a welcome bonus.

It's great to finally have a version of Ouendan in English that isn't entirely comprised of totally awful songs, and LTCC is a subtly different ripoff that with its orchestral trappings successfully manages to create a character all of its own. Beating the levels, and then getting A and S ratings on the good ones, will occupy you for many very happy hours. Like Looney Tunes? Like Ouendan? Then this will only disappoint you occasionally, making it automatically the best Looney Tunes videogame of all time.


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