Ben 10: Alien Force Vilgax Attacks - 360 - Review
I have lamented over the last couple of Ben 10 games, about how the developers seemed to completely miss the boat on what the show is about. In the series featured on Cartoon Network, Ben Tennyson is a young man who was (un)fortunate enough to be on a trip with his Grandpa Max and cousin Gwen when a meteorite falls near their camp site. In the meteor, a device called the Omnitrix attaches itself to Ben's wrist. This device (which looks like a weird watch) is actually the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, for in it the DNA of thousands of aliens is stored and the wearer may transform into any one of them. Problem is, the watch (which it is called in the series) did not come with an instruction manual and while heroic in nature, Ben's efforts were often humorous and with the help of his family, ended up all good in the end. Well, in this early years, Ben faced off against all sorts of villains, the main one being a galactic despot named Vilgax. Vilgax wanted the watch for himself so as to dominate the Universe. Well, long story short (too late) Ben defeated Vilgax and sent him packing to lick his wounds.
The past incarnations of the license always seemed to make it so Ben would only have a couple of the aliens in his arsenal. That you could essentially play as the alien you liked most, and only switch to the other aliens if you needed to climb a boat mast or glide over lava. Not to mention things never really gelled all that well, aliens did things they never did in the show, in short, the past games were stinkers.
"When you absolutely, positively have to set it on fire, use your burning finger technique."
So keep up with me now, Ben has grown a few years older and had stopped adventuring with Grandpa, who it turns out was a Government type called "A Plumber" who fixed crisis-type problems involving aliens. And in the latest Ben 10 Series (Alien Force) Ben has been armed with a new slew of aliens, his cousin Gwen is now a full-blown sorceress and the one-time enemy Kevin Levin is now part of the team.
The facts surrounding this title. Cartoon Network has managed to come up with a storyline that is completely original, falls in a splinter of time before the end of the last season's ending - but after many of the characters were found - AND manages to make everything make sense. Additionally, since the game was written by series writers, they also stay true to the lore of Ben 10. Finally, Cartoon Network gave Papaya studios their blessing to come up with their own ideas as to what the homeworlds of the featured aliens look like. The result is much better than anticipated.
Now in the game, Vilgax has returned and wants to unleash his latest weapon on the Earth, the Null Void Cannon. Vilgax is ticked off and he wants to make Ben pay for what he had done to him. Vilgax has all his minions, many of which are baddies Ben has dealt with before, but it gets crazier; Ben ends up getting all sorts of messed up and has to travel to other planets in order to set things right. I am, taking great liberty with the story and I do this because it is like a giant Ben 10 movie, and I don't want to cause spoilers. But I will tell you this - you only play as Ben, you have some seriously big challenges in front of you and you need to understand that Papaya has made an adventure game that steps a bit away from the game's of Ben's past.
"In his early years, Batman tried several glider wings without much success."
So controlling Ben and the aliens is no great challenge, they each have a series of combo attacks and powerful moves that are actually well detailed and animated. The crushing blows of Humoungasaur and the quick agile attacks of Spider Monkey still aren't where they should be, but the game does an admirable job of first showing you when you need to use an alien to get past an area and then allowing you to figure it out by yourself. Yes, I still have gripes about the strength of certain attacks, because let's be honest - if an alien as powerful as a 12-foot tall, three-ton muscle-bound behemoth needs to hit a robot three times to destroy it, it should take a human-sized pile of goop about 300 times, but there isn't that big of a difference. Ok, I can forgive that though, since I don't want to hit anything 300 times, but it is still a valid point, the whole attribute scale is not varied enough from alien to alien, but chances are your young player could care less. What I do like about the game, though, is that the developers managed to make this game as much a Tomb Raider-styled adventure as well as an action brawler. There are puzzles to overcome and baddies to destroy as well as that "save the world" thing. But the game does an admirable job of making this a true Ben 10 adventure.
The graphics in the game are better than one might expect, I know some real thought went into creating the original looking worlds and I like how whenever a new bad guy shows up, a small screen comes up, giving details about them. Some of the boss fights are really quite good and as much as I have to play these games with my own sons, I was more then happy to slug it out in this one. Of course, I will tell you that it helps to be a fan of the show since many, many characters zoom in during the games many cut scenes and no detail is given about them whatsoever. And when I say characters, I'm pretty much talking about everybody. I could only think of one character who is not featured in this game that I would have liked to have seen. Yes, Ship is in the game.
"I once caught a fish thiiiiiisssssss big!"
While I could not get too jazzed about the in-game music, as it seemed to formulaic and familiar, but I was happy about the game's sound effects and the fact that they managed to get all the voice actors from the show. Having the original voice cast reprise their roles always lends a certain legitimacy to a game and this game has that legitimacy.
Now the game does not any sort of multiplayer mode and considering that it is a third person perspective styled game, it may be hard to make something like that happen unless its split-screen. And did I mention I am not a fan of split-screen gameplay? Well, I am not and I am glad they did not force some sort of multiplayer mode down our throats just for the sake of having a multiplayer mode. I would have thought it was cool to have a couple of mini-games where you played as the other two heroes in the series, but I see that simply did not happen.
Smooth, you can slip between Ben and the Aliens fairly easily and the developers know that Ben cannot jump from alien to alien (yet) so you must revert back to Ben. A nice transition between all-out brawler to smooth action, to high adventure movement.
The animation choice was not like the cartoon series and not quite over-glossed either. A smooth-looking game with plenty of things to admire and places to go that are wildly different. Cut scenes are enjoyable because they move the story forward and have some good surprises.
Like I said, I enjoy a game that uses its source talent to give it a more accurate experience. The in-game music is a bit disappointing.
The game does not coddle its player by making things too easy. If anything, this game is a title that challenges and rewards.
Finally a game that understands its source material and manages to come up with a game that respects that material, plus it's an original story written by people who understand Ben 10.
This game was made for fans of Ben 10, by fans of Ben 10, those who don't know the rich and varied backstory will be left scratching their heads with the plot but those who know will be rewarded with a strong title.