A fun game that's also incredibly short.
Some of you may remember my recent review of the Wii version of Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks. The DS version retains the core concept of switching alien forms to move through the environment, but does so as a 2D side-scroller. The fighting isn’t much better, but the game sure looks beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s also ridiculously short.
The graphics are done in the style of an SNES Donkey Kong Country game, with pixelized versions of rendered character models and pre-rendered backgrounds. It looks great, and every character features unique animations and attack sequences. The worlds you visit are nicely divergent, too, and look significantly different from their Wii counterparts.
The control scheme is, for the most part, simplistic but effective. Switching forms is handled far better on the DS: rather than having to cycle through available forms, you can just tap whatever form you want on the touch screen to transform into it. You still can’t switch from one alien to another on the fly, though; you must transform back into Ben before going to a new alien form. This is still annoying, but it’s certainly a smoother transition than on the Wii. Another nicety is that your character upgrades himself in a very noticeable way. Life bars extend, offensive power increases, and attack combos increase as you collect experience orbs. Finally, while they were completely throwaway in the Wii game, the interplanetary ship sections are very fun here, bringing to mind “bullet hell” shoot-‘em-ups. It’s too bad they’re over so quickly, and there are no epic boss fights in these interplanetary shooter areas.
But it’s not all wine and roses. You’ll hear the same few sound effects for the entire game, and the music isn’t exciting enough to be particularly memorable. Combat, while serviceable, is incredibly simple, asking you only to bash out the same two or three button combinations during brawls (of which there are many). The character Spidermonkey has the ability to “web-swing” and climb up walls, but his web-swinging is severely hampered by the fact that you have to press X extremely quickly after jumping with B in order to successfully attach the line to the ceiling. It’s an awkward move that effectively requires you to press B with your thumb and X with your index finger. The web-swinging and wall-crawling are also bizarrely inconsistent—you can’t do either one everywhere. You can walk up to left wall, but not the right one. Go figure.
Without a doubt, the most frustrating part of the game is its boss fights. They are often interesting and challenging until you figure out how to beat them, at which point you simply repeat the same sequence of events incessantly until they die. Bosses only take about one hit point of damage every time you land a hit, and later bosses are invincible while attacking. This means that your window to attack them is very small, thus the fight goes on…and on…and on. Finally, because you have to upgrade each character separately, you will doubtlessly be left with a few characters who are borderline useless towards the end of the game.
Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks is an extremely short experience, clocking in at under three hours of playtime. There are no unlockables except for character profiles (which are simply text), so there’s little reason to go back when you're finished. Ben Tennyson's DS excursion is more enjoyable than its Wii counterpart, but only for a very short amount of time.