Activision has a surprisingly good track record with movie-based games, even though the industry average for such tie-ins is abysmally low. So with Monsters vs. Aliens, one of the standout animated films of 2009, the stakes were high for the company to uphold its track record or risk tarnishing a film that topped the box office longer than expected. Fortunately, the company delivers with Monsters vs. Aliens the video game, particularly for households with families whose kids fell in love with the film during its box office run.
Like most movie-based games, Monsters vs. Aliens opens with a bit of a recap to get gamers up to speed with the movie’s goings-on, in this case a recap of the various monsters and their origins. However, unlike most movie tie-ins, Monsters vs. Aliens eschews the plot-driven gameplay and instead entertains with a series of levels that aren’t entirely connected but feel more like minigames that play to each character’s strengths.
In the Ginormica (Susan) levels, for instance, players race through on-rails levels in which the gameplay consists of jumping, dodging, dashing, riding on rails and wall running while cruising through levels at a predetermined pace. Along the way, the levels are filled with such platforming staples as collecting valuable items (in this case, Monster DNA) and racking up multipliers that boost the number of points the player earns.
Other levels involve the Missing Link, whose The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.Cretan-like tendencies jive with the core gameplay in his levels: bashing the crap out of everything from crates to control turrets. In the B.O.B. levels, players slosh through the level while attaching to walls and shooting things with his gelatinous goo. The levels continue accordingly, with one character or gameplay element never featured twice in a row, thus keeping things fresh for the kids for whom Monsters vs. Aliens is designed.
Fortunately, as minigame-like as the levels are, they’re always long enough that Monsters vs. Aliens never feels frantic or scattershot. Had the levels been any shorter, the game would feel like a collection of minigames gone wrong. But, by increasing their length, the developers created a game that’s long enough to hold players’ attention but not so long that kids will get bored.
Between each level, the points accrued can be spent spend in the DNA Lab, a place for players to spend points on stills from the movie, faux audio commentaries from the “stars” and even honest-go-God minigames (called Monster Challenges) that are either time- or score-based. Oddly enough, these minigames feel an awful lot like the game’s primary levels, only shorter. This renders them somewhat redundant, but at the same time, they reinforce how smart the developers were to leave the game’s core levels their current length.
The result is a game that should entertain fans of the movie, and even a few who haven’t seen it, though there may be some disappointment in graphics that aren’t as polished as THQ’s WALL*E — which released last year. The voice acting is great, though, and the levels dynamic enough that Monsters vs. Aliens is worth checking out for the younger gamers in your house.
- Score: 8
— Jonas Allen