Pig. Guinea Pig.
Color us surprised: we share the average videogame critic’s cynicism when it comes to movie-based titles, but we found G-Force oddly enjoyable. It’s cute, charming, polished, and easy to pick up and play. The low difficulty and fairly repetitive gameplay make it better suited to children than to adults, but since kids are obviously the target audience here, it wouldn’t be fair to hold that against this worthy new entry to the DS library.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, the G-Force is a group of intelligent, anthropomorphic animals. Several of these secret agents are guinea pigs, another is a fly, and yet another is a mole. These critters’ small size enables them to infiltrate top-secret buildings on behalf of the FBI. Their enemy is Leonard Saber, who found a way to animate household appliances and turn them against humanity. Through these weapons, he plans to take over the world.
In the game, you foil Saber’s plot mainly by guiding Darwin, one of the guinea pigs, through a third-person adventure. Your primary weapon is an electrified whip, which is quite effective for short-circuiting the various water coolers, microwaves, waffle makers, and other kitchen aids that turn against you. Your tasks also involve quite a bit of platforming, for which you’ll need your trusty jetpack (whose fuel gauge both depletes and recharges very quickly). Without the jetpack, you can’t jump very high, so early in the game you’ll master the art of jumping twice, turning on your jetpack, and then boosting skyward with the rest of the available fuel.
The missions Darwin takes always seem basic at first, but to wring extra play time out of each idea, the developers threw in lots of plot twists and turns. Still, you’ll almost always follow the same basic steps: walk forward, jump over gaps, open item boxes, pull levers, and kill the enemies. If you can’t get where you need to go, find a pipe, air duct, elevator, or gust of wind. If you somehow manage to get lost in the mostly linear levels, you can put on goggles that tell you where your goal is located (which is nice but can kill what little exploring the game does feature). The game autosaves frequently, so even when you die, you never find yourself beating the same parts over and over again.
Occasionally, you’ll also take control of other characters. By solving Pipe Dream-ish puzzles (with electric current instead of sewage), you can hack enemy appliances and use them for your own ends. This is a nod to Bioshock, and one of the harder challenges the game throws your way. Also, sometimes you’ll need to control a fly named Mooch, who can fly higher and fit into tighter spaces than Darwin can. These small breaks from Darwin provide a nice bit of variety over the course of the lengthy campaign.
As far as replayability goes, there are lots of unlockables to find. For most gamers, this won’t make it worthwhile to replay levels, but it might be a reason to explore thoroughly the first time through. In addition, there are several multiplayer modes, and with the cartridge you can access Disney’s DGamer online social network.
As solid as all this feels, older gamers will find it rather easy and repetitive. Most of the enemies are pushovers, and some require nothing beyond mashing the whip button. One enemy type can be tough, but only because its attack is cheap. It shoots globs of a material that Darwin can hardly walk through, and usually fires a second glob before you’ve managed to wade your way out of the first. The platforming offers a few tricky jumps, but nothing a devoted 3-D Mario fan can’t handle after a couple of tries. When you die, you start at the last checkpoint with full health, even if you didn’t have full health when you reached said checkpoint. To an adult, this low difficulty combined with the constant twists in the plot just make the game drag out.
Then again, it’s unlikely too many grown-ups would play a game based off a kid’s movie anyway, so all of this is a little beside the point.
G-Force shows off some of the best presentation values we’ve seen on the DS. The cutscenes look terrific, and the adorable in-game depiction of Darwin provoked coos from a friend who saw us playing. The 3-D environments aren’t exactly teeming with detail, but they capture the feel of the various buildings you sneak into, and we rarely encountered graphical glitches (once in awhile, objects will overlap without colliding). The enemies look just menacing enough to give kids a mild fright without also giving them nightmares. All that’s out of place are the guys in dark clothes with machine guns who march through the halls in some of the cutscenes; that’s a bit threatening for a kids’ game with guinea pigs, no?
The sound is great as well. The cutscenes feature some well-done voice acting from the film’s cast, and the music captures the spy theme perfectly. The sound effects fit the mood too, even if they can get a little repetitive. Given the limitations of the DS speakers, no game can provide a top-notch audio experience, but this one comes close.
When it comes to controls, even more serious-minded action titles could take inspiration from G-Force. Overwhelmingly, you push buttons instead of scribbling with the stylus, use of which is limited to pulling up the goggles, checking the details of your mission, and solving the hacking puzzles. Moving, jumping, and thrashing enemies with the whip feels remarkably natural, and even complicated moves (like double-jumping and then boosting, or navigating between columns of heavy wind) become second nature quickly. The camera does a decent job of staying behind you when it needs to, and when it fails you can adjust it with the shoulder buttons (which fill in remarkably well for the second joystick a console game would have access to).
Once again, there is very little challenge here, and the gameplay is a bit repetitive. Most adults won’t find this game to be a good use of their time. However, thanks to the eye-catching cutscenes, cute characters, and decent-sized campaign, G-Force will keep a lot of kids occupied while they’re out of school this summer. Does this mean the fundamental rule of movie games (that is, they’re awful) no longer applies? No, but G-Force is definitely one exception to this rule.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
The depiction of Darwin is cute, and the 3-D worlds come alive. 4.8 Control
Simple, easy-to-use, and very natural-feeling. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects can get a little repetitive, but the voice acting and music are great. 3.7
Adults will find the game easy and repetitive, but it’s rather long, and there are lots of unlockables and some multiplayer modes.
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.