Monsters vs. Aliens Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii | PS2
Monsters vs. Aliens box art
System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Beenox 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Activision 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Mar. 24, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

As a games reviewer, much of the “work” element often comes into play when you have to review a game released in support of a movie. Let’s face it – games based on movie licenses have a fairly poor image, in general, and for good reason. These retail packages are often slapped together on the quick in order to meet deadlines, and budgetary considerations routinely rob what creativity might otherwise be allowed to flourish. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I set out on my adventures with Monsters vs. Aliens.

Monsters vs. Aliens screenshot

The characters and setting are based directly on the recently released Monsters vs. Aliens animated movie, and the game is broken up into four chapters, with a collection of missions per chapter. While on the way to her wedding, main character Susan is hit by a meteor and transformed into Ginormica – a 49ft. 11in. colossus. The military capture and confine her within a secret base where other monsters are kept far away from the public eye. Susan, however, just wants to get back to her normal life, and your mission throughout the early part of the game is to see her through to freedom.

The game has a great sense of humor, and cute yet clever one-liners tie the story, gameplay, and even the menus together in a very entertaining way. The presentation is top-notch, and you quickly get the impression that playful minds were at work on this game. The four chapters will take you through a generous variety of environments, implementing fresh gameplay ideas the entire way through.

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Upon loading up Monsters vs. Aliens, you’re treated to a really good-looking cutscene that sets the stage for the gameplay. I have to admit, it was a bit too long – after nearly 15 minutes of cinema, I was ready to do some actual gameplay – but it was still enjoyable to watch and well-crafted. You then take control of Susan as she’s skating on two Jeeps. One of the other main characters, Dr. Cockroach, tutors you on the basics (though tutorials can be turned off), and you’ll run through a series of short levels, playing as one of three main characters from the movie.

Monsters vs. Aliens screenshot

Each of the three characters plays quite differently, and the levels you’ll navigate through offer a unique and enjoyable gameplay experience. When playing as Susan, you’ll be on-rails, jumping over and crouching under lasers and other obstacles, skating along walls, and dashing into enemies. The levels are fast-paced, and best of all, Susan controls really well and the levels are designed for a quick burst of fun.

Next up is The Missing Link, a reptilian creature who makes up the brawn of this monster dream team. Here, the developers have taken some obvious cues from both God of War and Ratchet & Clank, and the levels are enjoyable, brawler-type romps that differ greatly from the Susan levels. You move The Missing Link around with the analog stick, and he can perform a variety of attacks, pounces, and throws. Generally speaking, you’ll need to defeat a few baddies, destroy a handful of key elements within the environment, and occasionally partake in a bit of Missile Command-style shooting.

Monsters vs. Aliens screenshot

The last of the three playable characters is B.O.B., a monster modeled after The Blob, and his levels are more about solving simple, environmental puzzles than engaging in heavy combat. The level of challenge never gets too difficult, though it’s perhaps perfectly balanced for the game’s intended audience. The control and level elements that involve this walking, green goop, however, make for some of the more clever and creative gameplay moments in Monsters vs. Aliens. At some points during B.O.B.’s levels, you’ll enter a shooting mini-game that’s fun and does a great job of mixing up the gameplay. The Wii functionality during these portions really shines.

The game takes turns putting you in control of each of the three characters, and the levels have a nice, bite-sized appeal to them that never makes you feel like you’ve overstayed your welcome. Controls are spot-on, and for the most part, we had a great time with the game – much better than expected. That said, there were issues with the camera, as it didn’t always line up in ways that were helpful during gameplay. Never did we find ourselves locked into a corner or succumb to cheap deaths due to the view, but the cinematic-camera system was often less than ideal. Some of the motion controls felt tacked on, though tossing enemies with the Wii Remote proved to be surprisingly satisfying.

Screenshots / Images
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