Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble

When Viewtiful Joe arrived on the Nintendo GameCube, it turned out to be one the biggest surprises of 2003. With an old-school 2D look and one of the most action-packed formulas since Devil May Cry, gamers everywhere embraced the Power Ranger-esque hero and his wild adventures and loved the attitude that he so elegantly radiate. It is no wonder that Capcom has turned Viewtiful Joe into one of its premiere franchises, and with Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble, the developers at Clover Studios have proven that they can twist the original action-oriented formula into a puzzle-focused one, and that they can still deliver a product that feels 100% Viewtiful.

Facts and Features:

  • Innovative twist on the Viewtiful Joe formula.
  • Wonderful 3D engine.
  • Great use of the DS hardware.

Lights! Camera! Puzzles?
In Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble, we take control of Joe — our favorite ordinary guy-turned-superhero — as he goes to Movieland to rescue his… film? Yup; when Joe, Captain Blue, and Silvia start filming a new movie, something goes terribly wrong as the “Madow,” a gang of mischievous robots, steal the film’s reel. We also get a chance to meet Joe’s quirky little sister Jasmine, who is an aspiring actress, much like her brother.

If you remember the original Viewtiful Joe‘s plot, you will know that Joe cannot use his powers in the real world, only in the world of movies. However, thanks to the V-Cam, he will have access to all of his powers, courtesy of newbie director — and love of Joe’s life — Silvia. As long as she is behind the camera, Joe’s powers will be safe.

As mentioned above, Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble strays away from the action-packed formula and focuses on puzzles for Joe’s dual-screen adventure. Even though the game looks and feels like its console predecessors, Double Trouble has such an interesting design that I cannot help but be thankful that Clover did not just produce a watered-down version of the sidescrolling action console titles.

In Double Trouble, we still have the same controls that made the console versions such a treat to play, plus many other features that made the original game such a great experience to play. Basically, you can kick, punch, and jump anytime you want. But what is the fun in that? VFX powers are really what sets Viewtiful Joe apart from other beat-em-up titles. Remember the VFX power “Slow”? Yep, press and hold the “L” button, and you can still witness the classic move that allows you to increase your hit-power, fight off any bad guys that are just too fast for you, and ultimately witness a cool, Matrix-like effect.

But old is never as exciting as new, and Double Trouble has its share of new VFX power-ups, thanks to the wonder that is the Nintendo DS touch screen. First up is the “Scratch” power up, which allows you to shake the screen by pressing the “R” Button, and rubbing your stylus (or finger, if it is clean) causing an earthquake-like effect. This causes you to drop many different objects on the baddies, and gives you the opportunity to leave them open for an attack.

The second — and my favorite VFX power-up — is “Split,” in which you can actually split the screen to affect your surroundings. This is actually a bit difficult to explain, because it is one of those things that you have to see to understand, but I’ll try my best. Basically, you divide your screen with a stylus split, and then you can move the upper screen to any side with your stylus. How does it work? Let’s say you want to drop a heavy item on top of an enemy: with the stylus, you will split the screen, drag the item until it is on top of the baddie, and let it fall! After you are done, let the screens go back to where they belong, and voila! It is one of the most brilliant ideas I have seen on the DS, and needless to say, this VFX power makes for some of the best puzzles in the entire game. Just imagine if you could move anything, anyway you want, and after you are done with it, you just switch it back as if nothing happened! Well, that is precisely what you can do in Double Trouble; you can move a waterspout to put out fire, you can alter your environments anyway you want; yes, it is as cool as you think it is.

The final VFX power-ups are “Slide” and “Touch”. The former will allow you to switch screens in an instant. With this power, you will have to take a vertical swipe with your stylus, automatically flipping both screens, and confusing the enemies. When that happens, you will be able to kick their butts with the “Touch” power-up (a.k.a. your stylus), or you can simply interact with the various environments or items on-screen. For instance, you can shake a pillar with an item on top (to let the item drop), or simply activate switches that are otherwise unreachable.

As with the previous games, you can also combine your VFX powers to maximize their effects. For instance, if you “Slow” down the action and apply some “Scratch” powers, you will see a much greater boost of power than when time is running normally. There are times when you will have to mix up the “Slow” power with the “Scratch” power, and then do a “Split” to finish the puzzle. Be careful, though, because just like the previous games, these powers are not infinite, so you must watch out for your VFX meter. You can always purchase new power ups and/or life meter expansions, otherwise known as hamburgers. Yummy.

Beautiful 3D graphics

Even though Viewtiful Joe has always been easy to control, using these new VFX powers will not be as easy at first. But no worries, the first level will serve as a tutorial of sorts, where you can practice every move. No, it does not take long to get used to the controls, but it is something you should know and be aware of.

Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble is — like its console counterparts — quite a lengthy game. So before you start thinking that you will finish this game within a couple of hours, you better be ready for a lengthy adventure. The puzzles alone will make this package quite a tasty treat, and that is not to say that you will not find action in Double Trouble, because you definitely will. It’s just that the focus obviously went to touch screen puzzles, and guess what? We totally love it.

The environments in Double Trouble are also very imaginative. In fact, one of my favorite things of the Viewtiful Joe games is all of the homages that they pay to different movies and videogames. Of course, Double Trouble, too, features lots of different movie/videogame based levels, and there is one in particular that actually pays homage to one of Capcom’s biggest games. Fortunately for us, this is but one of the many sweet treats that Clover Studios infused in the finished product, and for that we are thankful.

Like previous Viewtiful Joe games, Double Trouble is still very much like old-school 2D platformers, in that you do not get more linear than the game is. Beat a few enemies, solve a few puzzles, and then move to the next chapter. This is not something bad, it is just something that you should, and probably already expect. You can even unlock hidden characters and difficulties, so the replay value is there. The more Joe the better, and Clover Studios delivers the goods.

The puzzles are great, and require a brain.

If there is a complaint about the gameplay in Double Trouble, it’s that the controls may be a bit cumbersome — at least when you are not used to the game. Sometimes you will need to quickly take your finger off of the buttons and manage the touch screen with your stylus or your DS wrist strap in order to complete the move. It is hard when you are a newbie, but as with most things, you get better with time and practice. It is still just a minor quibble when the rest of the package is this good, but still something to take into consideration.

Make Up! Where’s The Make Up?
Graphically, Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble is definitely the best looking 3D game on the Nintendo DS. Granted, there is probably not a lot of competition in that aspect, but I bet that a year from now, this title will still be one of the better-lloking games available on the dual-screen handheld. The game is even running 3D graphics on both screens, something that few developers have managed to pull off with their games. Even though the engine features a lot of graphical quirks and details, you will most likely notice the lack of enemies on-screen, especially when compared to the frantic brawls in the console versions. This is clearly Clover’s way of cutting corners, while still developing a solid game engine.

I’m not sure whether the limitations of the DS hardware were one of the most critical factors when they were deciding how a portable Viewtiful Joe should be. Obviously, with less powerful hardware, the developers would’ve had a rough time trying to deliver a frantic beat-em-up with lots of enemies on-screen, so maybe settling for more puzzles was the safer bet? I wouldn’t know, and honestly, I do not really care if that was the case. I am just glad that Clover Studios tried something different, and actually made it work. This game is viewtiful, very well-thought and nicely executed. Kudos to the developing team.

The sound production in Double Trouble is not as good as the graphics, but it is still very good when all is said and done. It has a lot of techno/electric sounds, just like the console versions, and even though there is not a lot of variety in the sound-effect department, it gets the job done. Yes, the movie/videogame homages are also part of the music production, and there are many tunes that — without spoiling anything — you will remember listening to before. It is totally cool.

Cut! Print! That’s a Wrap!
Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble is yet another one of those titles that can only be experienced on the Nintendo DS, and that utilize the hardware in innovative ways. Make no mistake, that does not automatically make it a “gimmicky” title, like some will probably be quick to assume. Instead, it takes a formula that would have probably worked well as it already was, and twisted it into something completely different, all while retaining the elements that made the franchise so enjoyable to begin with.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow may have been the adventure everyone was waiting for, but Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble takes the adventure aspect and adds touch-screen elements that, unlike Castlevania‘s, are actually smart, innovative, and even necessary for the development of the game itself.

Some gamers might ignore certain portable games because all they are is watered-down versions of their console counterparts — and in a way, most of the time these assumptions are correct. But don’t you dare ignore this one just because it looks a bit similar to the console versions; if you give it a chance and look past its familiar facade, you will find that, in Double Trouble‘s case, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

— Miguel Yanez