A radioactive fajita explodes in deep space and wipes out everyone on board apart from a low-key janitor who has dreams of saving the Earth. Unfortunately for Earth, he’s all that stands between us and total annihilation by an evil alien dictator in Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space.
Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space has arrived on PC VR and Oculus Quest fetching with it a unique blend of First Person Shooter and Tower Defense mechanics, all soaked in a heavy helping of comedy for good measure.
After a short interactive opening sequence designed to help players familiarize themselves with the controls, in addition to a few movement and orientation preferences; you’re thrown fairly quickly into your first tutorial level where many of the initial tower defense elements are explained. Being the only person onboard has clearly affected our galactic avatar since not only has he been promoted from Janitor to Captain but he’s got free reign over the ship’s AI.
The Captain’s gone a little space crazy. Firstly changing his name to Toonhead whilst converting a TV screen into a space helmet as part of his ensemble. Turning his weakness to strength, Toonhead creates his own weapons and contraptions to take into battle. Enter the Turbo Mjolnirs. These rocket hammers are used to construct your defences in each level but also function as a boomerang to collect scrap left by defeated enemies which you use to build or upgrade your wacky arsenal. In addition to your hammers, Toonhead has also co-opted the AI into building his range of scrapbook-style blueprint designs for a range of defensive emplacements.
As with most tower defense games, Captain Toonhead’s levels take the form of a predetermined course upon which you can build various defenses with the aim of eliminating enemies and stopping them from reaching the goal. Each level has several rounds which are usually differentiated by the type of enemy deployed. Enemies drop credits when defeated by either your guns, hammers or by your defenses and these credits are used to buy or defend or upgrade existing ones. There’s a small respite between rounds and you get a bit of bonus scrap for sacrificing that respite by starting immediately.
The defenses are pretty crackers, imagine instead of a ballista that’s launched artillery you come armed with a catapult that throws Pig shaped Pinata filled with explosives. That’s only the start. Defenses each have different strengths and are suitable for differing types of enemies so most of the time you want a good mix of offensive capability rather than filling the field with just one. Early on it’s pretty clear that even if you manage to fill all your platforms you are going to need to dispatch some enemies yourself or at least contribute to their demise with your lasers as there’s so many of them coming out of the gates. That also means you need to move around fairly regularly
Rather than the free-roaming locomotion or teleport movement favoured by most VR shooters, Captain Toonhead opts instead for a “possession” style of movement around each level. The tower defense mechanics offer platforms on each course that allow Toonhead himself to build his fantastical contraptions and it’s these platforms that you can warp to at any time by simply pointing your reticule at and pressing the appropriate button. Initially it’s a bit disorientating since the teleport is direction specific. You might end up looking directly at a platform but when you land you’ll be facing away from the action and need to spin quickly to get back into it.
There are lots happening and it’s not always possible to see the entire course, here’s where Captain Toonhead’s jet pack comes in. Pressing the appropriate button launches our janitor-come-superhero into the air and offers a birds-eye view of the course allowing you to teleport down into any platform or emplacement on the field.
If the opening sounds fantastically far-fetched it’s because it is, Captain Toonhead vs The Punks from Outer Space wears its slapstick comedy inspirations proudly for all to see and story isn’t it’s strength. But it doesn’t need to be. It’s just a way to get you to the next level and introduce various new powers and skills as you progress
At the start of the campaign it seems Toonhead has a moral dilemma. As the AI explains; the only way to power up your skills is to sacrifice the Enercubes you just fought to protect but only one mission later the AI has figured it out and you can use them to power up without killing them. It’s potentially a lost opportunity as the guilt of powering up or trying to get through without the Enercubes would have been an interesting dynamic. Collecting Enercubes by saving them within each level is the easiest way to gain more, however it’s also possible to earn more depending on your overall score per level at the point of completion.
Upgrades can be purchased between levels and there’s some freedom in customization. players can throw points into Captain Toonhead’s personal weaponry, his defense contraptions or other level related bonuses. Having finger ache from the triggers after level one it was great to find an auto fire option was the first unlockable upgrade.
Graphically, Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space uses the cell-shaded style that the Oculus Quest is becoming synonymous with. It’s decently detailed whilst allowing the Quest platform to stay performant but there’s some slowdown at distance which presents itself as a sort of Game & Watch style of animation as the enemies jump from one animation to the next until they get close.
The difficulty level ramps up as you progress and saving every Enercube relies on revisiting levels with skills you may not have yet in order to give you a chance. It can be a little frustrating at times although that sometimes stems less from the enemies and more from moving around the map.
Captain Toonhead vs the Punks from Outer Space offers a welcome spin on the first person shooter and a first for Tower Defense on the Quest platform. The movement style mostly avoids the VR sickness that plagues other shooters and the comedic approach delivers a light-hearted story to support a balanced tactical shooter.