After striking comedic gold with an ogre and donkey duo, DreamWorks is at it again with another unlikely match; Monsters vs. Aliens. After faring well with moviegoers, does the videogame adaptation have what it takes to be an out-of-this-world experience?
Monsters vs. Aliens features your classic ‘visitors from outer space’ tale, but with a slight twist. Told through humorous cut-scenes, the story follows a top-secret government agency that houses a small army of charismatic monsters as Earth’s last defense against the unknown. Using benign humor, fart jokes, and the power of teamwork, the lighthearted story is presented in a fun--albeit predictable--way. And with DreamWorks’ solid foundation of A-list voice actors, colorful art-style, and well-scripted plot, the development team at Beenox had it easy, simply having to reanimate choice scenes to flesh out the story.
The game is designed so that you take turns playing as one of three monsters through four chapters, with five to eight scenes per. Locales include San Francisco and the alien mother ship, but each chapter manages to mirror its predecessor with the same exact design. You must take down a single larger-than-life alien robot. Sounds impressive, but déjà vu sets in quickly, and remains steady throughout the nine-hour adventure.
What little solace there is to be found, is provided by three highly poised characters, each with their own unique strategy. Ginormica’s 50-foot height restricts her to the street level, as she speeds along a fixed path on make-shift car skates. B.O.B, the gelatinous blob, penetrates the alien invasion from the inside, tackling various puzzles and mazes. With his ability to tread on walls and ceilings, there’s plenty of Super Mario Galaxy-esque elements that’ll take you upside down, sideways, and right-side over. The Missing Link is the brawns of the group. With super strength, he solves all his problems with his fists, and amusing one-liners.
A buddy can join in on the action at any point. Again, much like Super Mario Galaxy, they only have a cursor that’s used to shoot at enemies. The real bonus, outside of the single-player mode, is the DNA lab, where collecting enough DNA orbs yields character upgrades, movie trivia, stills, and monster challenge rooms. The bite-sized challenges are all score-based, offering a quick fix of action, though it’s nothing that can’t be found in the single-player game.
As a simple platformer, Monsters vs. Aliens has a few moments where it really shines, but the level design becomes far too predictable early on. Watching characters perform the exact same animation again and again grows tiresome, and despite having three characters to cycle through, there aren’t enough truly original ideas that stand out.
The vibrant visuals, and family-friendly motif imply an overly simple control scheme, but there’s a decent level of depth. Ginormica’s scenes can be summarized as a series of timed button presses. But grinding rails, wall riding, and attacking during scripted events, make things interesting.
As the puzzle solver, B.O.B.’s simple jump and attacks are easily overlooked since he uses his goo-based physics to slip in and out of grates and barred passageways. By eating or spitting out objects, you need to find ways to get from point A to point B. There’s also some clever use of gravity, as he clings to surfaces and ceilings, but sticky controls when attempting to reattach to surfaces leads to unwanted deaths. Scripted events prompt mindless shooting at alien defenses, and it eventually grows tiresome.
The missing Link is a jack of all trades, and by far the most advanced character to control. Equipped with a standard and strong attack, Link can also grab enemies, swing from poles, enter countless--and exhausting—button press sequences, and freeze enemies for a buggy air-blown assault. Unfortunately, the most widely-used monster is also plagued by constant repetition.
Aside from the occasional lukewarm boss battle, the constant stream of brain-dead enemies serve more as button mashing fodder, than a conduit to fun.
The game succeeds at emulating the look and feel of the animated feature. Using dramatic angles and A-list voice talent from the movie, the characters and cut-scenes come to life. Details like the dizzying heights of the mother ship, and voices that sync up with the animation show that a lot of care went into the game.
While it certainly isn’t the most polished product, Monsters vs. Aliens offers a colorful and vibrant palette. A few too many erratic cuts interrupt the flow of action, and the low polygon count looks are of Wii quality, but there’s not enough to truly call foul over.
License-based games don’t have the best track record, and Monsters vs. Aliens, while a solid effort, is no exception. It has a few shining moments, like the occasional ingenious puzzle, and playing as the gravity-defying B.O.B., but ultimately it becomes far too predictable. Having a variety of characters is great, but they each suffer from too many issues. If you adored the movie, give it a shot, but otherwise, this titanic matchup for the ages is nowhere near as engrossing as it should be.