Monsters vs. AliensESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer – Beenox
Publisher - Activision
60KB to Game Save
In-Game Dolby Digital
As one may expect, another Dreamworks movie means another movie based game from Activision. Released in conjunction with the Dreamworks 3D Animation film Monsters vs. Aliens, the game with the same name arrives on the Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, PC, DS and Wii. I was fortunate enough to review the Xbox 360 version. Having played many Dreamworks movie based games over the past couple of years I have learned to keep my expectations realistic and take the game for what it is worth. Don’t get me wrong, games like Shrek the Third, Madagascar 2, and the Bee Movie had some good gaming moments and pleasant looking visuals; yet at the end of the day they both had a tendency to come across as rushed and unfinished. Monsters vs. Aliens for the Xbox 360 tends to present in much the same fashion. It is a pretty game and younger fans of the movie will be pleased, but hardcore gamers will most certainly want to pass this one up.
As far as the graphics are concerned Monsters vs. Aliens is, in many ways, on par with the movie. The gang at Beenox did a wonderful job with the visuals in the Bee Movie game so it came as no surprise that the visuals in Monsters vs. Aliens are very strong. The developers did a fabulous job of not only re-creating the visuals depicted in the movie, but also expanding upon the world that is experienced. The movie’s animations are obviously superior but at this stage into the life of the Xbox 360 Monsters vs. Aliens are arguably the best looking Dreamworks based game we have seen to date. But it does come at a cost; long loading times.
I was most impressed with the games characters. B.O.B., Ginormica, and the Missing Link all look exactly as they do on the big screen and are easily recognizable. Also, you will see some other familiar characters in the game such as Dr. Cockroach, Gallaxhar and Insectosaurus just to name a few. They look as they do on the big screen. The facial expressions and character movements are all very good and life like, well as life like as these fantasy characters can be. From cut-scene to in-game play the transition is very smooth and not much is lost in the switch. Granted there are some framerate issues at times when things get a little too chaotic and fast but for the most part these issues are few and far between.
The games environments are also very slick but nothing appears incredibly innovative or original. That being said, the sequence where Ginormica is skating on two vehicles down a super highway is impressive. Additionally, the mission where the Missing Link makes his way across a giant robot looks stunning. The game’s levels are bright and the colours certainly pop from the screen. Yet some of the details in the games environments simply do not measure up to some other AAA games already on next generation consoles, but that is okay because my expectations have been scaled back. Bottomline, you cannot expect the detail you would see as if you were actually watching the movie. In fact, Monsters vs. Aliens may very well disappoint those mature gamers who have played through some visually superior games such as Gears of War 2 or Halo 3; however the young ones will love it and given the source material it met all my expectations in the visuals department.
As far as the sound is concerned, Monsters vs. Aliens is strong but not the best we have seen in recent months. On the positive side of things, it was such a nice treat to see some of the original actors produce the voices in the game. Seth Rogan as B.O.B. does a great job and his dim-witted humour had me in stitches at times while Reese Witherspoon as Ginormica is equally effective. Yet, my personal favourite is Will Arnett who does the voice of the Missing Link. His groggily Beetlejuice-like voice is perfectly suited for the character and he provides a high entertainment value. It must have cost a pretty penny to get them all to do the voices but it really pays off and adds some authenticity to the game. It should also be mentioned it was nice to see that the dialogue was not out of sync with the characters mouth movements.
As far as the soundtrack is concerned, Monsters vs. Aliens is solid. Essentially, it is your typical dynamic paced action movie based soundtrack which features tunes we have all heard before. Again, there is nothing incredibly original in the musical score department. On the other hand, the games sound effects are very strong. The sounds such as boxes exploding, punches connecting, and giant mechanical hands slamming against the surface, are all very effective as they manage to bring this animated like movie to life.
Unlike the Bee Movie Game, Monsters vs. Aliens does not follow the movie’s storyline nor does it really build from it. It does however use the movie’s basic premise, that being our team of misguided monsters must battle giant alien robots who are wrecking havoc on the earth. Monsters vs. Aliens takes a different direction than that of most movie based games as it allows you to play as each character; all of who have their own missions and own unique combat and movement styles. Not to mention Monsters vs. Aliens features a 2-player co-op mode where you can drop-in at any time. We have seen similar movie based games in the past but the two player co-op and original storyline, which is a significant departure from the big screen movie, makes this game a little more unique than your typical Dreamworks based game.
As I mentioned, the single player experience in Monsters vs. Aliens allows you to play with the movies three central characters. Ginormica (or Susan as she likes to be called) is featured in missions where she uses vehicles as roller skates. The missions are linear and involve our hero navigating her way along a super highway of sorts chalk full of obstacles, laser beams, and robotic enemies. She uses her size to her advantage as she lifts heavy objects and brawls with the robot army. These missions are fast, enjoyable and offer up a nice challenge but can become repetitive in a hurry. B.O.B.’s missions are much slower paced as he oozes and sloth’s his way around various obstacles. B.O.B. is forced to swallow various items in order to move past certain points and thus has to spit them out in order to move past certain gates and so forth. B.O.B.’s missions are unique. For instance, in some cases you have to swallow guards and use the guard’s transponders in order to get past certain barriers. This is certainly not something I have experienced before and adds some innovation to an otherwise average movie based game. He can also stick to ceilings and walls which gives the game another dimension and some originality. Finally, the Missing Link’s missions involve more combat and simple smashing and bashing of the enemy. It is mindless but it is also very entertaining. Little ones should have no problem with the Missing Link’s missions as the puzzles are easy to solve and the mindless combat is addictive and engaging.
The game will take you anywhere from 5-8 hours to complete depending on how much time you spend in the DNA Lab. The DNA Lab is where you collect and unlock monster DNA to unlock character upgrades and look at cool movie stills from the Monsters vs. Aliens movie. The Lab also includes a number of mini-games which can be entertaining and highly challenging. I was rarely able to achieve a “gold ribbon” when completing the mini monster games.
The controls are pretty straightforward for all three characters and it doesn't take long to get used to the control scheme. All three characters have some unique controls but the basic controls are similar for all three. There is a rather lengthy in-game tutorial which helps you become acquainted with how to move about and use your special powers for each character. Although a tad long, the tutorial was quite helpful.
I should mention that the game does suffer from some occasional camera issues as Monsters vs. Aliens does not allow you to control the camera yourself. Gauging depth and distance can sometimes be a painful chore as the default camera views can be a bit difficult. That being said, there were never moments where the camera angle hampered to the game to the point where it made it next to impossible to move along.
All of the missions include Dr. Cockroach's voice giving you tips, advice and suggestions in terms of how to proceed. He helps you to solve puzzles and will tell you what controls are needed in order to advance. In fact, the two player drop-in co-op mode actually has the second player playing as Dr. Cockroach. By playing as the Doctor you can assist the primary character by firing lasers and tractor beams at anything on the screen. This mode is great for little ones who have difficulty solving puzzles or trouble proceeding with some of the games more difficult areas. Kids can easily pick-up a controller and help out Dad, Mom, or Big Brother or Sister, by simply firing away and clearing out enemy riddled areas. It is not your typical two player co-op mode by any stretch but the ability to drop in at any time and have my daughter play the game with me is a plus indeed.
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