A solid tie-in game for fans of the movie to enjoy.
In my honest opinion, the DreamWorks Animation games by Activision have been quite solid, especially in recent years. Yes, they can be formulaic, borrowing a lot of gaming ideas, even from other games in the DreamWorks canon. But at the very least, some polish and thought have gone into their creation. Monsters vs. Aliens for Wii, based on the box office smash film of the same name, continues this tradition in a solid package with plenty of content to find.
Monsters vs. Aliens is an action platforming title that follows the plot of the film well, even though it takes many liberties in order to create levels that accommodate all playable characters. For those that haven’t seen the film, the story is about an evil alien invasion, and Earth’s only hope is a rag-tag team of monsters reminiscent of classic sci-fi and horror film conventions.
Of the entire cast, Ginormica (a 50-foot tall woman), BOB (a mutated blue blob), and The Missing Link (an ape-fish) are playable, with Dr. Cockroach (a brilliant scientist with the head of a cockroach) available in an optional two-player co-op mode. Each character plays differently. Ginormica’s stages are skating levels similar to the mechanics found in Sega’s Sonic and the Secret Rings. Her main goal is to reach the end of the level and defeat the boss. There are secret paths that lead to shortcuts and additional goodies. She must also avoid enemy lasers by jumping over them or crouching down, limbo style. She attacks by tackling her enemies, and players can initiate a combo attack with the flick of the Wii remote.
The Missing Link’s stages are a combination of platforming and beat ‘em up gameplay. He mixes old fashioned fisticuffs with acrobatics and multiple aerial and ground-based attacks for an impressive display. He can even take control of missile launchers and other gadgets in order to destroy enemies and open doors. If you hold down the B button he charges his fists to initiate a linking attack, which can be used to beat up an indefinite number of enemies.
Finally, BOB’s stages are light in combat but feature creative platforming and light puzzle solving. He doesn’t have that many skills, but his gelatinous body allows him to pass through gates, and he can swallow objects and enemies and then toss them at switches and other obstacles. He can also shoot pellets out of his mouth in shooting gallery segments within the levels.
While Monsters vs. Aliens is mainly a single player game, a co-op mode starring Dr. Cockroach is available right from the start. A second player can join in at any time to manipulate items and eliminate enemies using the pointer. Imagine the Co-Star mode in Super Mario Galaxy, except the concept has been expanded upon to include upgrades, like a stronger grappling beam and the ability to toss enemies more effectively.
Monsters vs. Aliens isn’t a particularly difficult game: older players can beat through the game without much effort, but younger players will feel comfortably challenged. As part of the game’s effort to be replayable, Monsters vs. Aliens has a score and achievement system. Successful attacks and completing missions nets you points that are accumulated at the end of the level. Up to five score multipliers can also be collected for a higher score, creating the incentive to play through the stages and beating your best score.
The DNA lab also contributes to the replayability of the game. With Monster DNA acting as the game’s currency, you unlock everything from concept artwork to additional levels, character commentary, and monster challenges (a series of mini-games based on the main game's objectives). You must, however, complete the stages to make these items available for purchase.
For fans of the movie and families with younger players, Monsters vs. Aliens is worth at least a rental. Those that have played the other games in the DreamWorks Animation series might get a feeling of déjà vu when experiencing it, but if you’ve never played any of the other games, Monsters vs. Aliens should impress with its solid approach to an equally memorable film.