Week of Love: Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! (DS)

Johnny Bravo was one of Cartoon Network’s first original creations for their network, the series focusing on the comedic situations its main character Johnny Bravo found himself in. A wannabe ladies’ man, many episodes would focus on his attempts to land a date with all sorts of women, often failing because, despite his impressive physique, he was an utterly obnoxious buffoon. If such a cartoon was to get a video game adaptation, one based on the idea of him competing on a dating show is a pretty good fit, but Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! (also known by it’s deliberately absurd longer title Johnny Bravo in The Hukka Mega Mighty Ultra Extreme Date-O-Rama!) is an excellent example of how not to execute it.

 

The first peculiarity to be found with this unassuming licensed game is the box art. We have Johnny Bravo up front and the woman who he will be competing to land a date with, but then we have a man dancing beside her who is not in the game at all and the wheel behind Johnny seems to contain room for ten spots when the in-game wheel has only eight. This may seem like a minor quibble, but if you chose to play Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama!, it quickly becomes apparent just how little was put in the game in the first place. After winning a chance to compete on The Hukka Mega Mighty Ultra Extreme Date-O-Rama! dating show, Johnny Bravo is made to compete with one other character for the chance to win a date with only one possible date. Other than the host who takes the form of a talking heart with a mustache and the cameo appearances from Johnny’s friends and mother during the minigames, this is the extent of the cast, and despite having such a limited group, the game will have them repeat dialogue incredibly often in the span of just playing through one round of the dating show.

 

In fact, the dating show structure does not seem to consider the incredibly shallow amount of content at all in its structure. The player and the computer controlled opponent compete in multiple minigames as determined by a wheel that does not actually spin randomly, but even though it tries to mix the small selection of eight up to prevent them from happening back to back, it’s not really possible to finish one round of play without repeating some minigames. Winning a minigame will move you up one step closer on a podium to reaching the prize date, but there are just too many steps to do it quickly enough to avoid repetition. Even worse, sometimes a player may receive a bonus chance to spin a different wheel, some of the results being helpful like getting a boost up a few steps, but you can get knocked down some as well, only making things take longer to complete. There are only two outcomes to the dating game, that being winning and seeing a short date that goes as you might expect for the forever unlucky Johnny Bravo, or, if you lose to the AI, they’ll go on a different date. Once you have finished the game though, that save file is over and you’ll need to start another to play again, the game trying to include a weak form of replayability in a high score system related to how many hearts you collect during the minigames.

In a better game, so far these components would be wasted potential and a bit shallow, but the weight of the experience’s quality would fall on the eight minigames you would be repeating over and over. If they were enjoyable and worth revisiting, then it wouldn’t matter you are playing them often. Unfortunately, the selection here is atrocious. Since there is no multiplayer mode, you’ll always be competing with a computer player at the same level of difficulty for these, and that leads to a lot of the issues present in these games. The core of many of the issues has to do with the AI sometimes being incredibly good at a game that’s harder for humans or incredibly bad at a game that’s too easy for the human player. The split isn’t even either, meaning that you can have streaks of the dull easy games or the frustrating ones the game has mastered.

 

Since there are only eight to be repeated over and over during the course of the game, it’s not hard to take a closer look at all of them. However, it’s worth mentioning first how poorly the game explains each of them. Rather than having a screen pop up with controls or objectives, the talking heart host just leads in with a line or two and then says to just press start to get an actually decent explanation of the controls. The first minigame we’ll start with is the one with undoubtedly the worst controls, that being a game where you are meant to toss trash into the properly colored receptacles, the target changing with each new piece of garbage you pick up. For some reason, the controls here are incredibly obtuse despite a simple premise. Using your stylus, you first align your shot on the touch screen, then you must press a button to lock your shot in place and use the stylus again to pull back the trash a certain amount to set the strength and fire. The problem with this is that holding the stylus and pressing buttons at the same time is an incredibly awkward action if you’re right handed, but even lefties and people who figure out the L and R shoulder buttons count will still find it an unusually tedious process. Meanwhile, the computer player is firing them off as if it was second nature, sometime hurling trash at you to interfere with your efforts. None of these minigames are impossible because of the favors granted to the AI, but ones like these are certainly made annoying because you’re fighting to control your throws while the game does as it pleases unhindered.

 

Another game that can swing to the computer’s favor if it so feels it is a game where you vacuum up mice to keep them away from your date. You’re meant to suck up only a certain color to earn points, your opponent sucking up the other color and both of you trying to avoid sucking up the cat running around. The little ring this happens in gets filled quickly though, and the suction of your vacuum seems imprecise. This lack of precision in picking things up comes into play as well in a game where you are meant to pick flowers for your date, although here, the AI may know how to pick things better than you, but it doesn’t understand a second layer of the game. You do need to pick flowers in that minigame, but you can also just repeatedly attack the other player, making them lose all their points easily and the AI not really smart enough to counter that tactic. We can also see this lack of intelligent play in a game where you are meant to grab food off a conveyor belt and launch it at each other with a slingshot. The conveyor belts are slow and you each have your own to pull from, and while you can easily grab one as it comes and fire to hit your opponent, that opponent is slow to return fire and bad at dodging. While the mouse game can be annoying because the computer has an inherent advantage against the chaos, these games where it can’t figure out simple mechanics are just a snore since you’re basically unopposed if you play logically.

The computer isn’t very good at another minigame where you see a pose appear on your screen and then fade away, the player needing to connect dots to recreate it to move onto another round of doing the same. If you aren’t paying attention you can fail here more than the others, but you get a few tries per round and don’t have to worry about the computer putting up much of a fight, sometimes going out in the first round itself and never really getting past three. The weight lifting minigame and bell ringing are a bit similar in how your competition with the computer might go. In both of them, the player is left to pick the weight of what they’re using, the heavier the object, the higher potential point payout in a best of three competition. Weight lifting involves putting on the weights and first lifting it and then trying to stay in a circle with it held up. If you try to go for hearts here you might fail, but otherwise you can probably find a consistent safe weight to keep up, it’s then just a question how ambitious the computer player will be. Ringing the bell is even simpler, the hammer requiring two timed button presses to determine the strength of your slam and then the player able to blow into the DS microphone to get their hit to raise their results even higher. The computer never blows, and for the most part, it never really swings any big hammers, making this almost too easy to win if you have slightly decent reflexes. Definitely the easiest game of all has to be Cookie Chaos, which almost had the potential to be the most interesting game. You ride around a neighborhood on a tricycle, avoiding obstacles as you try to hurl cookies at targets scattered around. The closer to the center of that target, the more points you get, so you need to throw well and find the targets before your opponent. The problem? Your opponent is awful at both tasks, barely able to accumulate points in the time limit while you can quite easily rack them up yourself.

 

Out of eight minigames, we are forced to repeat one with terrible controls that don’t inhibit your opponent, an annoyingly chaotic one, two that pretty much rely on the game choosing not to win, and four that are much too easy to win. Even without difficulty factors, a few of these like ringing the bell wouldn’t be fun anyway, and most of the others could potentially be passable if tweaked, but even then they definitely can’t make up 1/8 of the total play experience and expect the game to be a worthwhile experience. All of this while the game does a very poor job of trying to be humorous, the dialogue from the host and characters weak and poorly delivered. Sometimes you might hear Johnny or his opponent let out a voice line or two, but most of the talking is done in text boxes, and it’s quite clear that this is transcribed audio. We sometimes get parenthetical statements like (singing) to let the reader know how to read the statement, but these get a bit overboard like (talking to self) as if the aside wasn’t clear enough and the worst, (a la Chachi), which almost looks like gibberish if you don’t get it’s saying the line is delivered similarly to the way Happy Days character Chachi speaks. We also have a botched Price is Right reference when the heart host says to get your pets “spade and neutered”, which has no context for it to be a pun and is likely just someone writing what they heard. What audio could they be transcribing though? It turns out, Johnny Bravo’s Date-O-Rama! is the U.S. port of a Playstation 2 game that was only released in Europe and Australia. Despite being released a year later though, the DS game strips out a lot of the content, as the PS2 release had a few more women to date, more characters to compete against, and a multiplayer mode. It’s still a limited set of eight minigames that will have to be repeated, but both the controls and opponent competency are better than they are here. It would take a lot more to salvage this game though, since it’s clear the PS2 game is still just the developers putting in barely any effort and the DS port somehow managed to be even lazier.

THE VERDICT: With only eight minigames to pull from that it’s forced to repeat in the span of one play session, Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! was doomed to have not much going for it, but the substance of those minigames make even just the one dating show episode it has on offer an incredible bore. Minigames either have horrible controls or action detection that won’t hinder the computer player, designs so easy the player can easily beat the computer player, or a design that doesn’t make actually getting the win over your opponent all that fun despite it conceptually being a more fair contest in that game. All of these games get repeated over and over, all while unusual recycled dialogue makes the experience even more repetitive. Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! probably got away with putting in so little content because it knew people wouldn’t want to play it ever again after the awful first date.

 

And so, I give Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! for Nintendo DS…

An ATROCIOUS rating. While it can sometimes get the writing on Johnny right, pretty much every other aspect of the game was done wrong. The dating show is a sequence of repeated boring minigames that don’t even really offer moments for comedic quips from Johnny, his opponent, the host, or the lady he’s trying to get with. The substance of the games manages to fail in many different ways and the dating show was made much too long despite having a meager supply of poorly designed minigames to fill it with. Even if you don’t figure out the tricks to the easy games or find a way to adapt to the ones the computer has an edge at, this experience bet everything on the strength of just these little moments of play that don’t change to get harder or have new elements. It’s always going to be doing the same game you did before, making it almost inevitable you’ll push your way through to the end so long as you can continue to swallow the same dull games until it’s over.

 

It seems Johnny Bravo has equally bad luck with video games as he does with the ladies. Had Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! been a proper port of the PS2 game just with touch controls added in, it would still be a game that didn’t value the player’s time as it would still expect you to constantly play the same few simple, bland minigames over and over. Had there been just a lot more minigames then at least the variety could obscure the low quality of them all, but here, every spin of the wheel is essentially a coin flip on whether you’ll get a game that’s annoying or a game that’s boring.

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One thought on “Week of Love: Johnny Bravo: Date-O-Rama! (DS)

  • February 12, 2019 at 3:34 pm
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    My god, what a car crash of a game this sounds like. I think my favorite part is that the one singular opponent they cut the opposition down to isn’t the guy on the box, who presumably was in the PS2 version.

    That or the stage directions retained in silent text. That’s great too. “Why thank you Sandy. I would love one. [take patty].”

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