If sales are any indicator, multiplayer minigame compilations are quite popular. Nintendo's Mario Party (N64) is on its third installment, while games such as Sonic Shuffle (DC) and Crash Bash (PS) have sold well for their own respective platforms. Kemco's latest, Tweety & The Magic Gems, seeks to bring similar merriment to the Game Boy Advance--but fails miserably. While the concept of "party games" has yet to catch on in the finicky world of handhelds, the overwrought scope and stunted presentation of Tweety & The Magic Gems ensures that it won't be the GBA's archetypal innovator.
The game begins innocently enough. Thanks to a run-in with a cursed treasure chest, Tweety Bird has contracted a petrification curse. To cure him, Granny needs to form an antidote from five different magical gems, each of which is located in a different area of the world. Oddly enough, instead of pooling their resources, Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang decide to compete against one another to collect the gems. On a massive game board, you and up to three opponents (CPU or human) can assume the roles of these beloved characters and battle it out for the right to save Tweety.
In a sense, Tweety & The Magic Gems is a traditional board game. With each turn, you draw a single card from a standard poker deck and move the number of spaces indicated on the card. You can also play an item card during your turn--if you have one--and this usually results in enhancing your movement or stalling opponents. To spruce things up, visible and invisible hot spots lay in wait to trigger all manner of random events, such as item shops, taxis, and paralyzing ghosts. For the most part, the lion's share of these events occurs on red areas called challenge markers. If you or another player lands on one of these, everyone gets to take part in a brief minigame competition.
If there is a high point to Tweety & The Magic Gems--besides continuously putting an opponent to sleep--it's taking part in a button-mashing competition every few turns or so. In all, there are 16 different minigames to try, including palm tree climbing, pipe mazes, and the ever-ubiquitous free-throw competition. For rhythm game fanatics, there's even a pattern-based flag raising game. Along with the excitement they bring, these minigames also reward the victor with character points, which can be redeemed in shops for additional item cards.
Four players, 16 minigames, 50 different items, scads of random events, and a game board filled with more than 200 individual spaces may be the game's strongest selling point, but it's also its greatest problem. Tweety & The Magic Gems is too large, too complex, and too slowly paced for what it's trying to accomplish. Thanks to an oversized game board, painfully slow movement, and countless events that rob characters of their collected items, an average game takes nearly an hour to play--and even longer if every player is playing to win. The game shouldn't even need a save feature, but there it is, taunting you. Other quibbles, such as an unresponsive D-pad and obviously rigged card draws, also complicate matters.
As if to draw further attention to its languorous gameplay, Tweety & The Magic Gems does absolutely nothing to impress with its presentation. Sparsely animated cartoon overlays and richly colored minigames defy an otherwise lifeless world map and choppy character animation. If not for the use of a hi-color palette, you'd almost think you were playing a Game Boy Color game. As for audio, location-specific background music and high-pitched sound effects are it. There are no speech samples, pratfalls, or cartoon-reminiscent sound clips anywhere.
Simply put, people expect more out of the Game Boy Advance than Kemco has delivered. While the GBA needs a party game, Tweety & The Magic Gems is far too laborious and bland to captivate even the most carefree of audiences.