Looney Tunes Back in Action is a 3d platformer and collect-a-thon developed by EA in 2003 and based on the movie of the same name. However, unlike the movie, the human characters aren't there and it's pretty much just Bugs and Daffy who are in control. The story reflects this as its Bugs and Daffy who have to track down a monkey (spelled "munkey") who stole a giant blue diamond. Each of the major collectibles done by completing an objective gives a munkey who is then later revealed to not be the target munkey.
The game works by giving the player a series of linear objectives to complete in moderately sized locations. As said earlier, completing each objective rewards a munkey and is tied to the story going on in each area. For example, in the first area, WB studios, the first objective is to chase a munkey as Daffy. Completing that objective involves catching that munkey. The second objective when that's done is to play as Bugs and tear down wanted posters for Daffy in the area which rewards another Munkey.
So basically a collecthathon, although, unlike something like Jak and Daxter or Mario, this is a lot more linear with much less flexibility. You don't have multiple main objectives in an area active at once you can switch between and instead have to do them in the order presented. Each world has around 4-8 objectives and once you complete most of them, you can move onto the next world if you have collected enough money from levels (between $2-4000) or stay and complete the final objectives and find any remaining collectibles (which also reward munkeys). The worlds themselves aren't too big, feeling closer to the size of hub worlds in other games. I do wish there was something of a free mode you can toggle to explore freely to find collectibles because the way the game is set up, that's not really doable. You can select individual objectives from areas in the main menu and the objectives after that play out normally. But this can have issues. For example, some collectibles like Acme Bird Seeds Reset every time you leave an area, requiring you to find them all in one go through a world. Others like Svelster and Tweeties require you to find them in order. So suppose you learn that the 3rd and final Svelster is in the area for the 4th objective. You can't just pick the 4th objective from the menu and do the thing. You need to play from Objective 1, get the first 2 Svelvesters and then get the 3rd one when you do the 4th objective. This can make scouring areas quite boring as you have to keep replaying objectives.
As for the minute to minute gameplay, you have 2 major characters, Bugs and Daffy. Both characters can run, jump, roll, attack and swap into costumes. But Bugs can Double jump at the cost of all forward momentum, burrow underground to reach new areas and dig up treasure, wall jump at specific points. Daffy can flutter jump and swim. The 2 can have their own costumes at specific points. Bugs can wear a variety of suits like a Hula or Cowboy suit that are only there for one section to act as a key and never used again. Daffy gets his Duck Danger Suit that gives him invulnerability and lets him participate in specific minigames. Costumes cost around $50 to wear and last for around 30 seconds. You can swap between each character near instantly if they are free Lost Vikings style. Some levels and objectives take advantage of the concept by having puzzles and platforming segments that require the player to place the 2 characters and swap between them as needed using each character's unique abilities. However, the game very rarely does this. Most objectives tend to require one character and it's not until the last 2 worlds that the Lost Viking style design comes into play more often. I found myself playing as Bugs whenever I could as double jumping was more useful than anything Daffy could do. All of that's not really a huge negative because most of the game is paced well. You have solid platforming followed by a fun gimmick objective. Something like platforming to find a Munkey in one objective, followed by a bullfighting minigame, followed by more platforming under a time limit then a tennis with bomb minigame. It keeps the game feeling fresh even if the individual mechanics rarely get a chance to really get pushed to the limits. I remember a while back, I reviewed a game called Spongebob Creature from the Krusty Krab and it kinda had the opposite problem. The actual platforming was quite basic and shallow and levels went on so long that it got boring to play through. Back in Action gets that balance of a simple platformer and licenced game with set pieces much better.
Back to Back in Action, There are some platforming segments I quite like and ones that did try and push the mechanics the game has. In the 5th world, one objective requires the player to save 5 other characters under a time limit. 2 of the characters are in a room only Bugs can access and other is for Daffy so you kinda have to speed through each section somewhat quickly and using each character's unique abilities. I do wish this section was taken further. Maybe had one more version near the end where instead of the 2 rooms being entirely isolated from each other, stuff you do as Bugs affects Daffy's room and vice versa and it becomes a bit of a maze, a puzzle and a platforming challenge as you swap between the 2 characters. That's really my issue with the game, it is pretty short, clocking at around 4 hours for me and much of the gameplay rarely gets a chance to shine. I'd love to see a bigger version of the game where levels are somewhat more sprawling, there are multiple objectives to tackle at once, and you have many tools at your disposal and you have to figure out how to use them to solve some objectives. I also wish the game had some subtitles as my hearing isn't the best and an option to uninvert the camera. But the game itself is quite decent. The biggest praise I have for the game is how it uses the Looney Toons world and humour throughout the levels. The dialogue and scenarios you end up in are quite entertaining. I had fun with the experience, until the end that is.
After you complete the 6th objective of the 5th world, you reach a door. However, Bugs refuses to help Daffy open it saying "we should find more munkeys first so we can change them back". So you need to find 35 munkeys before you can play the final objectives to complete the game. This has several issues. For one, the game has never encouraged you to collect Munkeys until this point. Every past roadblock just required money. Other Collectathons like Jak and Mario 64 had Star Gates early on to encourage the player to collect more and expect roadblocks like this. Not to mention that in Back in Action, if you complete every major objective in every world thus far, you'd be at around 27 munkeys. The rest come from 4 sets of collectibles in every level. You get 1 munkey for finding 3 Svelsters in every level, 1 for paying between $1-3000 to Foghorn, 1 for finding 7 Acme Bird Seeds to play a (admittedly quite fun) minigame where you play as Coyote chasing Road Runner on a rocket, and finally 1 for finding 20 Frog Statues. I, having known there would be such a gate, though not remembering the specific number, was extra thorough in my play and only had 31 munkeys by this point. After paying Fogorn 4 times and finding one extra Svelster I got the 35 but that was quite the pacebreaker. Collecting $6000 and replaying levels to find specific collectibles is quite tedious.
What's more is that this doesn't even make sense in the story. At no point prior to this moment was it established that Munkeys were transformed from other people, hell that moment happens after the door cutscene. The munkeys had just been presented as, random munkeys that were mistaken for the target munkey. Bugs also never showed concern for the munkeys beforehand. His motive had just been "Daffy is looking for this diamond, so might as well tag along".
The content after getting the 35 isn't all that worth it either. You have one short side scrolling section as Bugs, followed by the heroes getting captured, the villain showing up out of nowhere using the diamond to turn everybody else on the planet into munkeys and our target munkey piloting a giant statue mech to stop this. Tweety gets hit with the Diamond Energy and turns into a giant monster to fight the mech in a boxing minigame while Bugs and Daffy offer quite repetitive commentary. Once you win this, a cutscene plays where the place gets destroyed, the heroes all escape, the diamond gets destroyed turning everyone, including Tweety back to normal. Tweety is given all the credit much to Daffy's sadness. It ends with everyone preparing to head to Tweety's movie deal with a cheerful Bugs offering a crying Daffy a ride at a discount with before the fade to black, Daffy shouting "You want how much?!".
While the whole thing is very silly which suits the tone the game had been going for all this time, there are some issues. For one, there isn't a lot of gameplay afterwards. Just one brief side scrolling section and a kinda repetitive boxing minigame. This minigame suffers initially because the controls aren't shown. If you haven't played a boxing game before, you wouldn't know that the controls are now switched to left and right sticks. Pushing a stick forward does an attack in that direction and you have to read the opponent to attack in the direction they are weak to. Pushing both sticks back does a block and pushing both sticks forward when you have landed enough attacks does a POW attack which knocks the enemy back. You win after knocking the opponent off the edge 3 times (even though the cutscene afterwards shows the mech on the platform).
Personally, if I had my way, I would have made the following changes. If the player doesn't have 32 munkeys by the time of reaching the door, Buggs and Daffy are captured by the uncaptured munkeys instead of Acme Chairman who then succeeds in turning the world into munkeys and makes a fortune selling Acme Banana peelers. It can be played for comedy instead of being serious with Bugs and Daffy being unconcerned with the rest of the world being turned into munkeys. This is the "bad ending" of the game. If they have 32, then it proceeds as normal (albeit with a much more meatier platforming and puzzle section) with Bugs and Daffy facing no opposition getting to the chairman who are then accidentally able to get Tweety into monster form to fight the mech (I'd also like if this fight had a bit more to it). This makes getting the munkeys feel more in line with what the game has established so far. The rest can play out the same with just an added control prompt for the boxing match and more varied dialogue from Bugs and Daffy. Though, ideally, I'd have loved it if this entire final section went full MGS4 with the Rex escape and Boss Fight but that may be too much. Having Tweety be the final star is fine. It maintains the silly tone the game has had and even works with a similar theme to the movie.
The game uses a 3D model artstyle that reminds me of that one Simpsons Episode where Homer enters 3D and I'm not fond of this style. I find it looks unappealing and a lot of games based on animated shows go for this. Spongebob Battle for Bikini Bottom and Simpsons Hit and Run have a similar approach as well and I'm not fond of their style either. I'd much rather the graphics either be more detailed or be more cell shaded and cartoony. Regardless, I'm not going to ding the game too much for this.
So in conclusion, Looney Tunes Back in Action is a fun little 3D Collectathon. The controls, platforming and gimmicks are fun if a little undercooked. The ending stumbles a little with the odd gate. I do recommend playing it at your own pace and when getting to the end, watching a lets play instead of backtracking and combing through levels. As a fan of Looney Tunes, there are a lot of references and easter eggs sure to entertain fans.
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