Surprising, but not greatly so.
One of my favorite cartoons recently is Codename: Kids Next Door. I find it very odd that I do enjoy it, and enjoy it quite thoroughly, to tell the truth. I never really could lay a finger on what exactly it was about this show that made it so appealing to me. And then last Christmas, I got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, and it hit me. It hit me like a freshly opened door. This cartoon takes Calvin’s ideas of parental tyranny, clandestine clubhouses, scrapheap inventions, and ridiculous acronyms and takes it to an absurd extreme. It is as if a group of suburban children had found Calvin’s spirited ramblings, worked it into a manifesto, and took it to a literal seriousness, even to the point of sacrosanctity. And perhaps that is what is so appealing about the show itself. It is as close to a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon as the world is possibly going to get.
The game, unfortunately, is another mediocre licensed game, although not as bad as my preconception. The game puts you in the role of one of the five operatives of the Kids Next Door:
It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Quite varied. However, this game gets tedious, particularly in the case of Numbuh 2’s shooter levels, as they get a bit too long even for the most distinguished shooter fan. And there are some quizzical moments of design that leave me scratching my head a little. For instance, there are “2X4” icons that the player is supposed to grab to upgrade his weapon. Get four of them and you get a better weapon. That sort of thing. But once, when I grabbed the last piece, I was thrown violently out of the game for a weapon description and had to restart that segment, which was a particularly harrowing piece of vertical platforming. This was in the very first level. Also in the first level, there is a truly horrible platforming segment where you are unable to change the camera to a better view. So you end up jumping blind. All this said, I did have much more fun with this game than I have with other licensed titles.
I count two Nintendo-specific references in this game, which surprised me quite a bit. The credits sequence is very reminiscent of StarFox, and Numbuh 4 shows his disapproval of a technique called “snaking” near the end. While you may think of Mario Kart DS, I would wager this was a reference to F-Zero GX, as it had a similar technique, and this game was being worked on before MKDS was released.
As far as the other aspects go, graphics have a smooth framerate despite having that weird “2D-Cartoon-Character-To-3D-Model” effect, controls are fine except for the aforementioned blind-jumping, and the sound quality is just fine. I want to make special mention of “production values” here, although I never pay attention to this aspect in unlicensed games. Essentially, the game is like another episode of the cartoon it is based on. Anything you expect from the show you will get here. And I suppose that would be the correct way to treat Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E. It's just another episode of the TV show.