Viewtiful Joe has become quite the star since his debut just a few short years ago. The brightly-dressed superhero has already headlined in a handful of games on consoles and in his own animated television show, and now he's hamming it up on Nintendo's handheld with the release of Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble. The game has all the trappings of a Viewtiful Joe product, with loads of style, cheesy one-liners, not-so-subtle movie spoofs, and plenty of special effects and over-the-top action. However, since this is a DS game, you can expect to see some new and inventive features that make use of the system's touch screen. The implementation isn't quite seamless, and it can be frustrating at times, but the touch screen features do give you a few more ways to interact with enemies and environments. As a result, Double Trouble takes a much more puzzle-focused approach to the standard side-scrolling beat-'em-up formula.
The story is predictable for a Viewtiful Joe game: A bad guy appears and announces some nefarious scheme, and Joe zealously sets off through half a dozen movie-themed worlds to save the day and look cool while doing it. Double Trouble takes place in a theme park called Movieland. As Captain Blue wraps up his latest film, a group of sinister villains known as Madow show up and snatch the film. Joe's little sister, Jasmine, an aspiring actress, sets off to get the film back, and Joe follows her to make sure she doesn't get into too much trouble. Of course, as the subtitle implies, trouble is everywhere. Joe has to fight through six different worlds within the Movieland theme park, beating up enemies, taking out bosses, and solving puzzles. There is a brief sequence where you get to play as Jasmine, but for the most part you play as Joe.
That isn't a bad thing, though, since Joe has quite an array of super moves and special VFX powers that make him capable of dealing with just about any situation. As in previous Viewtiful Joe games, you can punch, kick, double-jump, and dodge. That's all fun on its own, but the best part of the game is the VFX powers. You can slow down time to get the drop on your enemies and improve your reaction time. This allows you to knock bullets and missiles back at enemies, send bad guys flying across the screen with a superpowerful punch, and dodge enemy attacks.
In addition to slowing time, Viewtiful Joe has a few new tricks up his skintight spandex sleeve this time around. Scratch, split, and slide are all new powers that require you to use the DS touch screen. By hitting the R button once, you can activate scratch power, which lets you move your finger across the screen to cause the scene to shake. This is used to drop items on enemies and manipulate pieces of the environment. Split allows you to split the screen in half horizontally, and you can drag the top half of the screen left and right. Using this you can sort of temporarily rearrange the level to suit your needs. For example, you can drag a gushing water pipe over a fire to extinguish the flames, making it safe for you to pass. By dragging your finger vertically from the bottom to the top of the screen, you can activate the slide power, which makes the two screens swap places. This works like a zoom feature, since the top screen usually displays a close-up shot of what's happening on the bottom screen. By switching screens in the right spots, you can activate switches that you can manipulate by touching the screen. You'll have to throw levers, twist dials, and push buttons this way. All of these VFX powers drain your VFX gauge, but the gauge is constantly recharged, and you can purchase a power-up to make it recharge even faster.
You'll have to get used to switching between the touch screen and the buttons, because the game makes extensive use of the VFX powers. It isn't as awkward as you might think, though, and for the most part the VFX powers are pretty fun to play around with. However, there are times when the screen just doesn't seem to register your inputs correctly. Also, since there are multiple powers that use the touch screen, you have to make your movements fairly precise or you might end up using the wrong VFX power. When you're moving your finger around on the screen to use the scratch power, it's easy to accidentally activate one of the other powers instead. The lack of precision with the touch screen and the lack of tactile feedback make the VFX controls feel a bit awkward at first, but once you get the hang of them, the touch screen powers are pretty fun to use, and the game is built to take advantage of that fact. This design is made too apparent, though, and as a result, the puzzles aren't very challenging. Each time you enter a new scene, the camera does a fly-through to show you exactly what you need to do to progress to the next area. As if that weren't enough, there are also cues placed on all the interactive parts of your surroundings to tell you which of the VFX powers you need to use. Even without the cues, anyone familiar with Viewtiful Joe will be able to spot the solutions to the puzzles fairly quickly.
Although they're fun in the beginning, the puzzles do start to look a bit familiar later in the game. The stages get in a bit of a rut where you enter a scene, fight two or three enemies, solve a puzzle, and move on to the next scene to do the same thing all over again. This is fun for a while, but after playing the first few levels, you might start to feel like you're repeating yourself.
The six levels in the game each have a theme based on a popular movie. The stages are all unique, and they're full of little bits of detail that really add to the fantastic look of the game. There are also a couple of great spoofs that you'll spot right away, like a section with obvious references to Resident Evil. The stages are all colorfully designed, and they're as fun to play around in as they are to look at. The visual detail in the level design is carried throughout the rest of the game as well. The characters look great and animate every bit as well as their console counterparts. The flame, water, and electricity effects are a bit pixilated, but they don't detract from the overall style and quality of the visuals. To top it off, the game runs at a consistently smooth frame rate, even when the action is at its most intense.
The sound in Double Trouble is every bit as stylized as the look. Joe has a couple of spoken phrases, like his trademark "Henshin a go-go baby!" All of the story sequences are subtitled, though, so don't expect too much in the way of dialogue. The game doesn't suffer much from the lack of voice-over, and the dialogue is every bit as campy and fun as in previous Viewtiful Joe games. The soundtrack is made up of the same type of upbeat rock tunes that have been with the series all along. It sounds great, and it fits the mood of the game perfectly. The rest of the sound is made up of the usual smacks and whooshes that accompany Joe as he pummels foes and jumps between platforms.
Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble is a good place for the beloved superhero to break into handheld games. The action is familiar enough to appeal to fans, but thanks to the inclusion of the touch screen features, it's also different enough to offer an entirely new experience. There are only six levels, so you can easily burn through the game in a few hours, but you can always try it again on a higher difficulty. The action and puzzle-solving do feel a bit repetitive at times, and the touch screen VFX powers take a bit of getting used to, but the fun moments are plentiful enough to make this game worthy of adding to your collection, especially if you're a fan of previous Viewtiful Joe games.