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Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: D3
Developer: Papaya Studio
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Licensed properties usually don't fare well in the gaming world. For every gem like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, there are fifty games that deserve to be either forgotten or beheld as examples of how not to make a game. Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks falls somewhere between success and failure, though it leans much more heavily towards success than most other licensed games. If you don't care about the series, you won't really be missing all that much. Still, a fair look at this game reveals it to be quite a decent one. It's not a very deep game and it's appeal is limited, but when all is said and done, Vilgax Attacks is a harmless action/platformer that will please fans of the series.

Vilgax Attacks replicates the look of the animated series, but it's not an impressive-looking game. The character models are pretty much what you'd expect if you've ever seen commercials for the cartoon. Some of the animations are a bit off, but the alien forms look pretty good overall. The environments are passable, but you won't get lost in them the way you would while playing a game like BioShock. I know that's an unfair comparison to make when it comes to family-friendly games, but these kinds of games should be able to hold their own.

The alien forms are as well-voiced in Vilgax Attacks as they are in the television series. Though there's not a ton of voicework, all of it feels quite authentic -- with one major exception. Paul Eiding as Max Tennyson leads you through the tutorial sequences with a performance that is reminiscent of his role in Metal Gear Solid 2's most infamous scene. Every time he explained a mechanic, I had to keep myself from yelling "La Li Lu Le Lo!" at my television screen. Since the tutorial only lasts through the first level, this isn't a big deal. The music is solid, if forgettable. I don't watch either of the Ben 10 shows, but I chuckled when I heard an elevator music rendition of the Ben 10 theme.


Gameplay:

Games with titles like Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks appeal to game reviewers, primarily because the titles themselves literally state the premise of the entire experience. This game is indeed about an attack from series mega-villain Vilgax. Technically, when the game begins, the battle is already lost. However, Professor Paradox arrives and sends Ben, Gwen, and Kevin back in time so they can keep Vilgax from obtaining the power source for his Null Void projector. The story is stock, through and through, but that's not where the game draws its strength from.

Vilgax Attacks is a 3D action game that is primarily focused on navigation and combat. However, there are some environmental puzzles peppered in with all of the other stuff. You'll run through each level, completing objectives and beating up the many minions of Vilgax. It's a very linear affair, but the diversity of the objectives, coupled with the ten alien forms, adds some much-needed variety to the game.

There are some ship segments in Vilgax Attacks, and thankfully, they can be skipped. These poorly-designed rail shooter sequences have you navigating through obstacles and blasting pretty much everything in your way. Every shot you make won't go the way you want it to go, and there are some serious depth perception issues regarding the aiming reticle. Play the first ship mission to see if you like it. Chances are, you won't.


Difficulty:

Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks has its difficult moments, but Demon's Souls it is not. The combat is straightforward almost the whole way through, and as I mentioned, the awful flying segments can be skipped. Some of the bosses may kill you a few times before you finally take them down, but you shouldn't get too frustrated. In addition, you won't get lost; the touch of a button will direct you to your next objective, la Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The game teaches you how to use the Omnitrix, as well as how different scenarios call for different alien forms. This is done with a holograph system. Each time you run into a different kind of obstacle, one of your alien forms is projected around the area you need to be at. Once you switch to the correct alien form, the game will instruct you further. It's easy to get into, which is important, because younger players make up this game's target demographic.

You're probably not going to return to Vilgax Attacks once you finish it. Once you've gone through your initial playthrough, the only thing to do is experience the whole thing all over again. This isn't something you're going to want to do, especially since the holiday season is about to swing into full gear.


Game Mechanics:

There are several ready-made gameplay mechanics in properties like this, and the mechanics present in Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks are solid. They are not complicated, yet they offer enough depth to make each scenario feel fresh.

Ben 10 and Ben 10 Alien Force revolve all around the wristwatch-like Omnitrix, which allows main character Ben Tennyson to transform into ten different alien forms. Vilgax Attacks makes good use of the franchise's signature gimmick. You can cycle through the different available alien forms and pick your enemies' poison with the Wii-mote's D-pad. Each of these alien forms has its own special attack, and most of them have environmental applications, as well. For example, Spidermonkey can climb certain ledges and webswing, while Grey Matter can hack terminals. The alien forms wield a number of special powers, from gliding through the air to freezing enemies solid. Using these powers comes at a cost, in the form of a special Omnitrix meter that sits right next to the health meter. It's not difficult to manage; beating up enemies the old-fashioned way will recharge the meter.

Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks will make a good holiday gift for young gamers. The mechanics are sound, the level design is smart, and the combat, while not deep, is fun. Too many licensed games fall prey to overhasty development cycles and poor design decisions. This game is an welcome exception.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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