You might be wondering why I would choose to feature a game aimed at the younger set on this blog. Or why I would review this one, when it’s sequel just came out. If you must know, it was gifted to me this past holiday season. Having finally completed a bunch of other games, and it being a slow period for game releases I figured I’d play it. Besides, someone has to play these types of games too from time to time.
PROS: Nice visuals. A lot of cool alien forms to use. Can be played with a friend.
CONS: Boring, and very repetitive. Bugs. Glitches.
REALLY: Malware? That’s what they decided to name the bad guy?
Anyway, I’m not a big Ben 10 fan. Most who probably read this blog, or game sites probably aren’t. But I’m willing to bet some of you have children who are. Or were, at some point. Or were when it first came out, then moved on, and are now nostalgic about it.
For those not in the know, I’ve done some research for some context. Ben 10 started out almost 10 years ago on Cartoon Network. It’s gone through a couple of iterations since then. In all of the versions of the show the story focuses on the adventures of Ben Tennyson. A child who is granted a special bracelet called the Omnitrix. With it he can turn into a variety of different extraterrestrial beings, each with its own super powers.
Over the course of each series, different alien threats loom over the Earth, and it’s up to Ben to stop them. In the original series the worst of these was Vilgax a warlord who originally fought Ben’s Grandfather, and wanted to use Ben’s bracelet to create his own army to conquer the universe with.
Despite, some of the craziness one would expect from a show of its nature, it actually isn’t half bad. It has an interesting cast of characters, and story arcs that have some character development in them. It was also very popular for a considerable amount of time spawning action figures, comic books, and a number of video games.
But what about this game? Does it measure up to the cartoon it’s based upon? Is it any good? Does it do anything cool with the source material? Is a kid going to stick with it to the very end? These are all questions you might ask yourself if you’re ever looking at the plethora of licensed games on the shelf in your local game store/game section.
Sadly the answers to most of these questions range from “No” to “Sort of. Maybe.” Ben 10 Omniverse is based on the latest run of the franchise, and is a spectacle fighter in the vein of God Of War. Which is a popular blueprint for action games right now. Some games manage to do it very well like God Of War, Warhammer: Space Marine, Devil May Cry, and so on. Other games do it very poorly. Others like this one feel rather middling.
The problems with a lot of these games are that they’ll either get the combat wrong, won’t have enough variety, or have technical problems. Spectacle fighters are all about having fun to play combat that looks, and feels great. The best ones will be so fun to play you won’t even think about formulas. The best ones also have stories you’ll become at least a little bit invested in. Caring about what is going on will keep you captivated long enough to keep playing. Variety can also spice things up. If done right a player can go from beating down 900 bad guys to solving a fun puzzle, to a completely different experience altogether.
Ben 10 Omniverse starts out promising enough. The game’s story centers around a villain named Malware (I know, I know, I rolled my eyes too.) who can assimilate technology. He’s sort of like the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. When he assimilates it he gains its most powerful attributes, and begins finding immunities. Malware cons scientists into letting him have access to generators that can merge actual matter with computer software, and hardware in the future. So Ben 10, has to stop him. Because it’s a time travel story you will bounce back, and forth. Between present, and future.
Rook Blonko is a space cop of sorts who goes forward, and backward through time. Relaying the events of the story to present, and future Ben 10. As you play through the campaign the game slowly unravels Malware’s plot, and it starts to tie everything together in the last two or three stages.
Ben 10 Omniverse can be played by one or two players. The first player being Ben, and the second player being Rook. Stages are set up in the same spectacle fighter formula you’ve played in countless games. First you will fight a wave of enemies, then have a reprieve where you’ll get some more story exposition, maybe a power up or item, and back to brawling. Sometimes Omniverse will toss in a puzzle or two as well. The entire game will run you between six to eight hours to complete.
Unfortunately some of the common problems in other games mentioned earlier rear their ugly heads here. To its credit, Ben 10 Omniverse does try to implement some of its source material into the gameplay. Ben can switch into a huge roster of alien types as he unlocks them in the story. Each with its own special abilities. Some can throw projectiles, some can see hidden items, or hints. Some can freeze certain objects in place. There are plenty of other examples.
Many of these alien forms actually look pretty good, matching the look of their cartoon counterparts. Many of the moves do indeed showcase cool visuals fans will probably like. The game also has a leveling system, allowing players to upgrade the various alien forms for more attack power or abilities. Rook can also be leveled up. While he can’t shift into alien forms he can get various weapon upgrades. The problem is in the execution. Much of the time the animations of the combinations don’t flow very well, feeling sluggish.
This leads to the main problem with the game: Monotony. Because of the sluggish combat taking down waves takes a long time. This is compounded when you find out that after using up an alien form’s super power meter you have to revert to being Ben. Ben’s moves do so little damage you will have to wait for his meter to refill so that you can get back to using one of the alien forms. All of this takes you out of the action, and makes what should be a flashy Saturday morning beat ’em up into a bore.
The game does have a few non combat segments in it, but these mostly boil down to some very mundane switch puzzles. These sections almost always require you to switch between a few alien types in order to solve. They are also almost always used to open a door to progress, the few other times being used to hide a special item or a power up.
Other times the game will introduce a platforming section. These are easily the worst parts of this game. Jumps are imprecise, often times leading to an accidental death. Worse yet some of these require certain alien forms to clear out an obstacle before jumping, only to miss, and have to restart from the last checkpoint. It is also here where the fixed camera (You can never adjust it on your own) becomes a pain, obscuring certain items or even platforms you need to see to be able to progress.
Bosses in this game do in fact, look pretty cool. However, they mostly break down to a single attack pattern. After defeating a boss the game will make you play a Quick Time Event to finish it off. If you fail the QTE, the game then gives the boss some of its health back, forcing you to re-defeat it, and then re-do the QTE section.
As with the characters mentioned earlier, graphics as a whole, are the one part of the game that actually shines. It goes with a cel shaded look, with colors, textures, and backgrounds that will remind you of Borderlands. Many of the stages take place in caverns, old towns, and installations with a very similar aesthetic. Enemy variety is honestly pretty respectable here, featuring a decent number of grunts to defeat, along with the recognizable characters the fan base will like.
In the end I really wanted to like Ben 10 Omniverse. The cartoon is one of the better kids shows on TV, it has a nice look to it, and it even has a few nice features. But while it is not as bland, or as bad as so many other TV or Film tie ins, it still isn’t particularly good. The monotonous feeling will probably get to even the most devoted kid who plays it. Its camera problems, and technical hitches (In one instance I was clipped underneath the stage during the final boss fight forcing a restart) certainly won’t help. The terrible ending is also salt on the proverbial wound. Playing with a friend probably makes it slightly less of a chore, but there are far better games one can play with a friend than this one.
Even if you or your child are big fans of the source material I’d skip this one.
Final Score: 4 out of 10