A Movie Tie-In You May
Monsters vs. Aliens is a game for those who are young, or young at heart. If you are expecting a deep and immersive title with plenty or angst or story, this game is not for you. In fact, you shouldn’t even be reading this review. But, if you like fun, movie-inspired games with simple yet interesting platforming and some intelligent mini-games thrown in for good measure, then this game will definitely fit the bill.
As you’ve probably already guessed, Monsters vs. Aliens is the game based on the movie of the same title. The game lets you play through five of the movie’s pivotal scenes, expanding the experience. Although you don’t have to see the movie to appreciate the game, it certainly helps give the game’s story some context, as cutscenes are sparse and the game basically assumes familiarity with the source material.
But, even though this game is light on story, it certainly isn’t lacking gameplay. There are about 20 levels spread across five different movie scenes. The levels feature a puzzle-platform style of gameplay that emphasizes jumping over ledges, throwing switches, and, of course, beating up everything in sight. The gameplay honestly reminded me of the early Crash Bandicoot games, which was definitely a good thing. Although the different levels are completely linear, there are still little surprise areas where you can uncover a hidden switch and get some extra bonuses.
Each level has its own character assigned to it, and even though you can play as all the different monsters, you can’t decide when. During each of the scenes that are playable, each character will have their own role that is determined by monster mastermind, Dr. Cockroach. So, for instance, the first scene from the movie that you can play through involves the monsters escaping from the lab facility. Each character has a dedicated level here. Ginormica, aka Susan, will use her car-roller-skating skills to escape from the facility in a vehicle-type level, gelatinous BOB will use his wall-sticking abilities in a stealth-emphasizing level, and the fish-like Missing Link uses his combat skills to fight robots that would prevent their escape. The different levels all emphasize different styles of gameplay, which is very cool and makes the game’s small scope seem a bit larger for those looking to extend their movie experience with this game.
In addition to the linear story-based levels, there is also a “DNA” lab where you can use points earned in the game to unlock bonus mini-games. These mini-games can range from endurance-style beat-em-up sessions to level-based time trials, and they are good fun if you want to get away from the main gameplay for awhile.
The game’s variety of gameplay options certainly serves it in the balance department, and I must admit that during my time with this title I was never bored. Although each level has broad goals that involve your character’s life bar staying above zero, each level had environmental challenges that were fun to play through, and I can definitely see younger kids getting a kick out of this title’s format and gameplay.
However, one area I found to be a little lacking in Monsters vs. Aliens was the co-op. Although two people can play simultaneously, only one can play onscreen. The second person can play as an off-screen Dr. Cockroach, who only appears as a reticule onscreen. The second player can only shoot through this reticule and has no personal life bar and cannot solve puzzles. Although this player is useful in combat-based levels, in stealth levels the second player can’t do anything, and it is a very boring experience. This game is best played single-player, and although parents might see the two-player capability as a chance to play with their kids, they might just find themselves falling asleep at the controller again.
Visually, Monsters vs. Aliens is on par with most other current-gen titles. The look of the game is remarkably close to the visual style of the movie, which is an impressive feat indeed. Even though there are a few jagged lines here and there, and the different environments are a little bit on the empty side, this game has tight animation and a killer look.
Controls in Monsters vs. Aliens is very simple, and the game does a good job of reminding you how each character controls differently (though the basic button layout is the same). No matter which character you choose, you will have a dedicated attack, jump, and action button. Although the game’s control tutorial is a bit on the lengthy side (it goes on for the first four levels), the controls are exceedingly simple and intuitive, and both young and old player will have no issues controlling their monsters.
The sound scheme in Monsters vs. Aliens is also very good, especially the voiceover. Much of the talent from the movie has returned to do the voice work for the game, including main characters Susan (played by Reese Witherspoon), BOB (Seth Rogan), and The Missing Link (Will Arnett). The voiceovers are all very nicely done, and there is a substantial amount of dialogue in the game. The background music isn’t as exciting as the voiceover, but this is permissible, as you rarely go more than five minutes in the game without some type of dialogue.
Overall, I was very pleased with Monsters vs. Aliens. Although it does not feature the most challenging gameplay for a seasoned gamer, the puzzle-platforming style of gameplay recalled older titles like Crash Bandicoot, and it is fun to play for both kids and adults. It is certainly one of the better licensed games out there, and although you probably won’t spend more than ten hours with this one, I doubt you’d expect more from a game inspired by a 90-minute movie. For what it is, Monsters vs. Aliens is awesome.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
Graphics are incredibly sharp and achieve a look that is very close to the film. 4.1 Control
The game’s tutorial phase is very lengthy, even though the controls are not that difficult. Single button attacks as well as combos are easy to learn and use. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is unremarkable but the voiceover is great and features many of the voice actors from the film like Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, and Seth Rogen. 3.0 Play Value
As fun as this title is, once you plow through its 7-8 hour story mode, there isn’t much else to do with it. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.