Review: Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks (DS)

 It's hero time!

Console: Nintendo DS

Today, I want to take a look at a TV-series tie-in videogame I played as a kid and have a lot of fond memories of: Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks. It was the 3rd console game for the Man of Action animated television series and the one I put the most time in. I got it for the Nintendo DS this game just in time for Christmas of 2009. It was basically the only game I played for the entirety of the Winter break and went back to it many times during my childhood. I liked it so much that I also bought the ‘big-boy PS2 version a few years later. I will take a look at that version of the game as well but for now, I want to focus solely on the Nintendo DS version.

Is Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks for the Nintendo DS a good game? That’s debatable but if you are/were a fan of the Ben 10, then you’re at the very least in for an enjoyable little romp.
Let’s dive in. 


The Ben 10 franchise revolves around Ben Tennyson who can turn into a variety of Aliens, usually 10, using the Alien watch known as the Omnitrix. At the start of the game the Alien conqueror Vilgax, Ben’s arch-enemy has launched a full-scale invasion of Earth. While Ben and his allies put up a good fight, it’s not enough. That, until the time-traveller Professor Paradox intervenes. He brings Ben and his allies back in time, a few days before Vilgax’s attack. He informs them that Vilgax’s big doomsday weapon is powered by a very rare type of energy-core. He also reveals that Ben’s grandpa Max, essentially a space-cop, is currently on a secret mission in outer space to prevent Vilgax from getting his hands on an energy-core. With all this Ben and his allies set out to the planet Vulpin to stop Vilgax’s invasion before it even begins.

The story of Vilgax Attacks is serviceable. It does the job of serving as a way of tie-in the different levels together while having just enough familiar elements from the television series that fans of the series will recognize and enjoy it. The different planets that Ben visits are, almost all, planets that some of his alien forms originate from. That’s something that as a kid I found extra interesting, to see these worlds that these aliens are from and it does help make the experience more interesting. The bosses of each world is also a villain from the series, so while their presence doesn’t make a lot of sense it’s another part of fanservice that’ll improve the experience for fans.

All of the 10 Aliens that you can transform into in this game. You're welcome!

Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks on the Nintendo DS is a 2D action platformer. Using the 10 different alien forms you can turn into, you make your way throughout the levels from left to right while jumping on and across obstacles and platforms. What I appreciate very much, and is a compliment to the game, is that the platforms are integrated into the world as much as possible. This does result in some instance like a weird, giant brick wall that doesn’t make a lot of sense to be there. But them even attempting this instead of the usual ‘floating platforms’ approach is commendable and they pulled it off pretty well.

On occasion, your progress is hindered by a group of enemies that keeps you from moving forward. This is where your alien forms really shine. Sure, they have passive abilities that come into play during the platforming, from double-jumps to glides to destroying certain types of terrain, but fighting is where they really come in handy. Each alien form is distinctively different, from the way they look to how they move. From the 10 aliens that are in the game, the little green Upchuck is exclusive for the DS version of the game which is worth mentioning.

In combat each alien form a light attack, a heavy attack, a special attack, a block and two different jump attacks. These can be chained together for combo’s, as well as upgraded even further with the amount of XP you collect. In essence, the difference between these attacks is nothing. Enemies don’t have any real pattern to them other than a shield so it doesn’t matter which moves you use against them. It’s still fun to use different moves though yet it is a good example of the does the lack of depth of this game.

The game will run you around 5 hours of total playtime, which isn’t much especially if you bought this game when it first came out at full price. It does add in some features that promote replays, different difficulty setting, collectables and that spaceship mini-game the game urges you to get a high-score in but even with these added the game still doesn’t last much longer than 10 hours. For a little kid, this is fine. Just playing it is fun enough and I myself did so many times over, but I can’t deny that there is a lack of depth and content here.

Good quality stills are hard to find but here's a decent one that shows the game in action. The touchscreen is used for the alien selection and your lives while the action is shown on the top-screen.

Another issue with the game is that it’s quite clearly made on a low budget. The game feels cheap. The presentation of the story, and the entire game really, here on the DS is below par. Not only is dialogue lifted directly from the home console versions which makes for a very tone-deaf slog of text but stuff has been outright cut. There’s one less planet in the game, large amounts of enemy types are missing and the once that are here are just pallet swaps from each other. The 5 aliens that appeared in the previous game are all unchanged and this causes a divide to occur. Vilgax Attacks goes the Donkey Kong Country route of creating 3D models that are placed in a fixed perspective. The models of the 5 new aliens here are all of different quality so you basically have two different styles that are noticeable.

The same goes for all of the assets in reuses from its predecessor and the ones that were made specifically for this game. Other problems like the very limited (though still catchy) soundtrack, the models of people during cutscenes and on the database re-used from other Ben 10 promotional material and yeah. The corners the developers cut is clearly to see to adult eyes. The lack of polish in some areas, like with some text boxes you can press A to skip right to the end working in some dialogues and not others also don’t help.

Conclusion

If you’ve paid close enough attention up until now, you probably already know what my final verdict is. Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks for the Nintendo DS is one mixed bag of a game. There’s nothing here that makes it an outright bad game but the lack of depth, the level of cheapness and some rough edges hold it back something fierce. As a fan, there’s enough here to enjoy and it is a genuinely fun game to play if you are, for kids especially. For everybody else: I would leave this game be.

Comments