Review: Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks (PS2)

 It's hero time!

Console: Playstation 2

If you were a gamer in the 2000’s you are well familiar with the tie-in games. Games that are produced is to increase hype and revenue for both the movie/TV and the Gaming industries, effectively marketing one another's releases. These games were, almost exclusively, of poor quality. This was due to factors such as a rushed development to meet deadlines as well as low budgets. With how modern-day development costs of a game have risen exponentially, coupled with how the video-games is no longer seen as ‘only for children, these types of games are rare these days. Yet, in the days of the Nintendo DS, Wii, PS3 & Xbox 360, they were everywhere.

Today, I’m taking a look at such a tie-in game. A game that I’ve already taken a look at not that long ago, just on a different version of it. Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks. I already took a look at the Nintendo DS version but this time, it’s the big boy home console version of the game that is the subject of this review. The one that is considered to be the ‘proper’ version of the game. Is Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks for home consoles the better version of the game? Is it a good game worth playing, to begin with? Well, it is a better game than the DS version, a solid product that fans of the franchise will enjoy but one that is plagued by a myriad of problems.

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 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 their first goal set, the planet Vulpin, the group set off into space to stop Vilgax’s invasion before it even begins.

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

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. The bosses of each world are villains 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.

Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks home console versions are a 3D action platformer with puzzle elements. Using the 10 different alien forms you can turn into, you make your way throughout the levels fighting bad guys, jumping on platforms and solving basic puzzles and get rid of obstacles that hinder your progress. For example, one time you need the powerhouse Humungousaur to break through walls. Other times, you need the console exclusive alien Cannonbolt to jump over large gaps. The puzzle-solving aspect of the game is well done. They’re obviously made for kids and are thus pretty basic. They’re still well implemented and difficult enough that kids will need to do some thinking before they’ll be able to solve them.

In between the puzzles and the platforming is the combat. Each of the 10 alien forms has different combinations and special attacks that they can use to beat up the bad guys. Each alien has a light and heavy attack as well as being able to block enemy attacks. These attacks can be strung together into combo’s for massive damage, but only if you have enough energy in the energy meter which replenishes over time. These combos are unlocked by gaining experience, yellow orbs, which you can get from combat and occasional from platforming.

From a technical standpoint, the setup of the combat system is sound. In practice though, the combat is the most frustrating thing about this game. The problem with it is two-fold. The first is that the hit-detection is not implemented well. From enemies hitting you when they shouldn’t have to you not hitting the enemies while you’re standing right in front of them. You know, the usual stuff when it comes to problematic hit-detection. The latter, not hitting your enemies when you clearly should, is not helped by the combat’s second problem. The aliens move when they attack, messing everything up. From sliding forward to inching to the left and right, the aliens always do some sort of movement that messes up your attack. Case and point: it took me over 10 punches to even hit a static obstacle to destroy it. This is the most frustrating aspect of the game and makes combat last much longer and more difficult then it should’ve been.

Pulling off a combo with Goop.

The game has you travel across 7 different planets across 8 levels, all of which are pretty nicely made. Except for the two earth-based levels which is just a very generic city area, all of the planets are pretty unique and visually distinctive from one and another. From essentially a waste dump that is Vulpin to the very Tomb-Raider inspired Terradino to the Nightmare dimension that is Anur Phaetos. This approach to the levels gives each their own identity and gives the game some good variety.

It’s a shame then that the built of these levels are… rough, to say the least. It’s very easy to see the shortcomings of the graphics and, dare I say, the engine the game is built on. From being able to see the edges and corners of the textures tearing and flickering to the camera and occasionally the player and enemies clipping throughout the stage. Those aren’t the only problems of a technical nature. The loading screens stutter, the subtitles of the dialogue not lining up with voice acting just to name a few more. This game definitely should’ve been polished up more. But: it’s a tie-in game. These are the sort of problems that you can expect from these type of games.

Lastly, the home console version of Vilgax Attacks lacks any replay value. Unlike its DS counterpart, there are no real collectables to find or difficulty settings to play around with. You have health & energy upgrades that are hidden throughout each level but if you have a decent eye you easily find them. You could easily grab all of these in your first, roughly 7 hours, go. No backtracking/replaying the level to find them required. The same goes for the combos. There more than enough XP orbs in the game that you’ll unlock all of the combo’s without much effort before you come to the final boss. Even the little ship mini-game doesn’t have a score meter in this version, so that’s not something you could keep yourself busy with post-game.

Conclusion

My final verdict for Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks on consoles is quite similar to that of its handheld cousin. It’s one mixed bag of a game though to a lesser extent than the DS version. There’s nothing here that makes it an outright bad game but the lack of replay value, 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. I will say though that the overall quality of the home console versions is higher. If there’s any version of the game pick up, I’d go for the home console version.

Comments

  1. Looks like a really fun and colourful game for anyone.Adrien Agreste Birthday

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! I had fun writing this one. I'd reckoned that it wouldn't attract a lot of readers but this was a game that I liked a lot as a kid and wanted to revisit. Playing it was thus a fun, if brief, trip down memory lane (the DS version especially).

      And sorry if my reply is on the late side!
      You're the first person to comment since I switched from Wix to Blogger so I'm still working out how everything works. Hadn't even noticed your comments until know, so that's something I need to be more aware off.

      Delete

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