XL has a few modes that weren't in the original 3DS release. Arcade mode lets you compete in a series of brawls against computer-controlled opponents. It sometimes pits you against overwhelming odds--you may need to fight all three Powerpuff Girls at once, for instance--and these battles are more frustrating than fun. As in so many fights in the game, victory here is at least as much about luck as it is about skill. PTE mode and Drones mode put the focus on something other than clobbering each other. In the former, the winner is the player who collects the most energy cubes; in the latter, it's the player who destroys the most robotic enemies. But you'll likely still spend much of your time in these modes fighting your opponents to prevent them from accomplishing their goals, so these variations don't significantly change or improve upon the Standard mode.
Punch Time Explosion is at its best in Story mode, but even here it has some serious problems. An evil force is corrupting the universes of numerous Cartoon Network characters, providing a fine excuse for the Powerpuff Girls, Numbuh One, Dexter, and a bunch of other CN stars to band together and battle evil. The enthusiastic and funny narration by a CN voice-over guy who just wanted to relax and enjoy some cartoons on his day off lends the story an authentic Cartoon Network soul. Platforming takes priority over punching here, and bounding across chasms and over hazards with each character's double jump is pleasant enough. Or at least it usually is; some sections crank up the challenge in ways that only result in frustration. For instance, at one point you must make your way across a series of floating barrels that have a tendency to spin when you land on them, making it overly difficult to get your footing and make the leap to the next barrel. What makes this and situations like it doubly irritating is that losing all of your lives often results in a significant setback, requiring you to repeat minutes of easy gameplay to get back to the tricky bit.
Your side-scrolling escapades are also frequently put on hold when you're required to defeat a number of small-time bad guys or a single, more powerful cartoon character. These turn out to be some of the worst moments of Punch Time Explosion's Story mode, since they can almost always be won by repeating a specific signature move over and over. On occasion, you're required to protect a character as you defeat 25 enemies, a situation that encourages you to rely on this tedious but effective approach to knock the bad guys away from the clueless and vulnerable character you must keep safe. Other diversions also crop up from time to time in the form of basic turret shooting sequences, mine cart levels, and the like, and these are more welcome, preventing the platforming from growing stale. New in Punch Time Explosion XL is the opportunity to tackle Story mode with up to three friends, playing locally. Of course, sharing the adventure with friends makes it more enjoyable, but the game doesn't always make the experience an accommodating one. If one player runs out of lives, he or she may be sitting things out for several minutes.
Support characters don't stick around for long, but they can have a big impact.
Frustratingly, many of the playable characters and battle stages are locked at the start, so there's a good chance you'll need to sink in some time before being able to beat up your friends with your favorite character or in your favorite Cartoon Network locale. Since the gameplay gets old fast and the characters are the game's greatest asset, it's disappointing that so many of them are unavailable from the beginning. Punch Time Explosion has a host of cool characters, but without the support of exciting gameplay, their presence can only benefit the game so much. This XL version is crammed with even more fan service than the original, but it still fails to create an enjoyable experience that makes the most of its terrific cast.