I have a tendency to yearn for video games based on movies, despite the vast majority of them being disappointing. I’m not entirely sure why, but once in a while one comes along which is surprisingly good. Monsters vs. Aliens is a good example of this… for the first hour or so at least.
It’s not that it’s a particularly bad title, it’s the fact everything seems to be exactly the same straight from the off; with the same characters, doing the same thing, on the same level design to the same characters, doing the same thing, on each of the game’s challenges. There might be the slight change of scenery and enemies but the feeling that you’ve already done something very similar before is indeed imminent.
As I do with all the movie-to-game titles I review, I checked out the movie itself which proved to be hilarious and had a great storyline, whilst the game of the film is pretty much the opposite. It’s not hilarious and certainly doesn’t have a great storyline, as without viewing the film I wouldn’t have had any idea what was going on within the game.
As you would expect, Monsters vs. Aliens offers players control of three different characters. The first of which is Susan - an unbelievably tall woman - who skates her way through levels using cars for rollerblades, ducking and jumping to avoid the enemies’ attacks. Then there are two characters which use the typical ingredients for an action adventure title. They are The Missing Link – a half human, half lizard, and B.O.B. - a blue goo character with no brain. The two of them play very similarly with the only differences between the two are that B.O.B. has the ability to stick to walls and slide through grates whilst The Missing Link has a stronger attack.
Players can also play as the fourth monster, Doctor Cockroach, in co-operative play. By co-operative I mean, one player plays the game whilst the second player shoots at enemies using a charge blast. This certainly isn’t entertaining, a reticule moving across the screen isn’t exactly ideal for the person playing.
The game consists of four chapters, each of which is split into scenes. The monsters that players take control of depends on where in the rotation system they are and the same rotation continues throughout the entirety of the title. Whilst this is a lot better than simply playing as one character throughout a chapter then another for the next, it’s let down by the lack of any variation with each character themselves.
Each chapter sees the monsters taking on a separate robot, sent by the aliens, though the enemies themselves seem to get easier as the game progresses. This is possibly due to character upgrades received from the DNA Lab or the fact that each robot requires less game scenes to take down – you can take your pick. The first chapter is a good hour to an hour and a half, then the following chapters just seem to get shorter and shorter. This isn’t uncommon in games but Monsters vs. Aliens makes it pretty damn obvious!
A feature of Monsters vs. Aliens which adds to the length of the game is loading. They appear before and after every cutscene as well as before gameplay moments. This may sound normal but at times the loading seems to go on and on and with no progress bar it’s not possible to determine how much has been loaded. Instead, players are greeted to an eye of a robot repeating the same movement, accompanied by a hint at the foot of the screen.
Throughout the game, players collect Monster DNA through collection and destroying enemies. Players can also pick up multipliers, and bonus DNA is offered at the end depending on how well the player has done within the scene. These can then be spent within the game’s DNA Lab, a collection of nodes which open up as you complete levels and Monster Challenges. Each node unlocks concept art, movie stills, audio commentary, screenshots, deleted scenes, co-op bonuses and more impressively Monster Upgrades. The DNA Lab is one of the positives to be taken out of the game as it does provide a vast majority of content for fans, though whilst playing Monsters vs. Aliens and even now, I’m pondering whether the inclusion of Monster Challenges was necessary. They simply require you to play through a short aspect of the scene you’ve just played, collecting either time or doing it flawlessly to earn gold, silver and bronze medals. To make matters worse, the only reward for completing the tedious challenges is more nodes and two achievements.
Games licensed from movies are very well-known for being some of the most generous titles for achievements and Monsters vs. Aliens is no exception. The sound of an achievement unlocking can be heard every few minutes towards the start of the game, though not so much towards the end. This is definitely a game for achievement junkies to consider.
Other aspects of the game which should have been incorporated better are the graphics. The cutscenes look fairly impressive but switching to gameplay really isn’t the prettiest of sights. In this day and age, we expect our graphics to be at a pretty decent standard but Monsters vs. Aliens fails to do so. The same could be said for the audio - which struggles to amaze. Basic sound effects and voice acting doesn’t make you want to turn up the volume on your speakers.
To conclude, Monsters vs. Aliens is your typical movie licensed title; it looks promising but repetitiveness, lack of replayability and poor development let it down.