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Monsters vs. Aliens: The Video Game

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Based on the past history of movie tie-in games, Monsters vs. Aliens isn't going to get the credit it deserves. Unless you've decided to ignore the movie theater for the last few weeks, you'd know that Monsters vs. Aliens is one of those dreaded movie-to-game conversions that typically don't end that well. While Beenox's effort doesn't completely escape what has become the natural order of things, the studio has still managed to craft an entertaining game.

Don't expect movie-quality visuals, but Monsters vs. Aliens does an incredible job at recreating the movie on the 360. All of the characters are true to their on-screen counterparts; they feature loads of smaller personal ticks and the animation is smooth. There are a few smaller issues with textures though you're only likely to notice these during cutscenes when you have a little time to breathe. The rest of the time you're so busy dodging aliens and tricking off walls that you probably won't care.

The voicework is spot on and features a few of the actors from the movie. There are a few overly-repeated lines, though that's to be expected. As impressive as the voicework is, the real audio superstar is the music, which puts out a great 50's sci-fi feel.


Monsters vs. Aliens loosely follows the plot of the Dreamworks' movie. For years, the U.S. Military has been trapping and storing monsters and keeping them locked in a military facility deep underground. Spending their days locked in a warehouse isn't to their liking, especially when there are places like the mythical Monster Island to visit. The group attempts a jailbreak, only to be recaptured. Their break is enough to get the attention of the military, which has just had the issue of a full-scale alien invasion dropped on its lap, prompting them to turn the monsters loose on the invaders.

Gameplay follows a pattern where you end up controlling each of the monsters in levels designed specifically for their skills. For example, Missing Link, a fish/ monkey hybrid, can use his acrobatic skills to stick to walls. Susan's levels, on the other hand, are completely different and resemble Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam. Susan has two cars on her feet that she uses like roller skates to race through levels while pulling off grinds, wall-flips and other maneuvers. Finally, there's B.O.B., a blob whose levels are, without question, some of the game's real highlights. B.O.B.'s levels find the blue glob of goo clinging to walls and ceilings as he navigates puzzles. Levels become even more intricate when his ability to swallow solid objects (which keep him from falling through grates) comes into play.

The story-based levels are complimented by a branching DNA system. During levels, you can collect DNA orbs that you can then spend on unlocking strands of DNA. Each strand will unlock artwork, movies and abilities. Certain DNA strains unlock monster-themed mini-games. Some are time runs through certain levels, while others take elements of levels and ask you to perform certain actions under specific circumstances, like completing a level while taking as few hits as possible. One of the more interesting unlockables is monster commentary, which adds narration from each of the monsters when you replay levels. The commentary doesn't get super deep into the design process or anything (think Valve's stuff), but is still entertaining enough to warrant a replay.


There's no adjustable difficulty, so everything stays even and consistent throughout your adventure. Skills are introduced slowly and you are given more than enough time to learn the skill, perhaps too much. I don't have many complaints about the game's length, but areas do tend on drag on for a little longer than they should. It also takes a little too long for the game to get to the point, leading to a lot of repetitive goals. The first escape chapter could have shaved off one of two sequences and been just as enjoyable, if not more, than it already is.

Several in-game reminders are used to keep players on track, especially once the monster's ability lists become more than a simple jump and attack. There are still a few timing issues, particularly when it comes to jumping, though the on-screen reminders take care of most of the issues. The reminders also add a slight bit of challenge since you have to time the presses right. If you miss one, it usually isn't a big deal, which is great for younger players.

Game Mechanics:

Each of the three play styles features its own kinks and quirks. The Missing Link's levels are straightforward action sequences and shouldn't throw anyone for a loop. Jumping between platforms can, however, become mildly frustrating because of the fixed camera. Some of the angles aren't great and making timing jumps hard. The instinctive thing to do is flick the Right Analog Stick to adjust the camera, which ends up sending The Missing Link into a defensive roll right off the side of the platform. I'd say that you'll learn over time, but that wasn't the case since, at least for me, instinct tended to overpower knowledge.

Susan's levels are also about timing and, while not as immediately recognizable as The Missing Link's, they should feel familiar to anyone who has any familiarity with on-rails racers, especially skateboard and snowboard games. Susan moves at a constant speed throughout the level, placing your focus on jumping or grinding over gaps or performing the occasional wall jump. Most of Susan's levels end in some really well thought out boss fights. They can get a bit tiresome the third or fourth time you have to do them, but they're still fun and keep you on your toes.

B.OB.'s areas are so well done that, with a little refinement, I would probably be interested in a game using just his mechanics. Although B.O.B. features a few offensive moves (the ability to suck up and spit objects for instance), his levels are mostly composed of puzzles built around B.O.B.'s ability to cling to surfaces and ooze through grates. None of the puzzles are incredibly complicated, but are pretty interesting.

As movie-based games go, Monsters vs. Aliens: The Video Game stands at the top of the heap. This probably won't mean much to some people, but for anyone looking for a fun game to give a younger sibling, Monsters vs. Aliens will fit the bill nicely.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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