Video Game Review: ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ Will Entertain Fans of Film

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HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Even part-time game players have a movie tie-in horror story to share. Show me one blockbuster that produced a quality video game companion and I’ll show you ten that failed to do so. So no one’s more surprised than this writer at how enjoyable Activision’s “Monsters vs. Aliens” is from start and nearly to finish.

It’s not a perfect game, but judged on the scale of movie tie-in releases, “Monsters vs. Aliens” is a very pleasant surprise. To be blunt, I enjoyed my experience with the game more than the film itself, something incredibly rare in the world of movie tie-ins.

Monsters vs. Aliens
Monsters vs. Aliens
Photo credit: Activision

“Monsters vs. Aliens” features 25 stages over four levels of the game. No, it’s not very long. Even an average player shouldn’t take more than five hours although there are also mini-game challenges and a point structure that makes the replay value of the actual levels a bit higher. But it should be clear that, like the movie, this is a game primarily for children or young adults. Don’t expect nail-biting action.

Monsters vs. Aliens
Monsters vs. Aliens
Photo credit: Activision

Each level alternates between one of the three primary characters from the movie - Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon in the film), The Missing Link (Will Arnett), and B.O.B.(Seth Rogen). Each character has a different skill set and each level is designed a little differently.

For example, all of the Ginormica levels play off the scene in the film in which she uses cars as roller skates. They are all race levels and all require a combination of jumping and dodging attacks as the players speeds from point A to point B. The Missing Link’s levels are a little more action-based as the player punches, spins, and leaps his way to safety. Finally, B.O.B.’s levels are more strategy, as the amorphous blob has to swallow boxes and enemies to avoid slipping through grates. The final B.O.B. levels are literally mazes.

The alternating strategies of each level - the speed of Ginormica, action of Link, and strategy of B.O.B.- make for an experience that rarely feels stale. By the final levels, “MvA” does get a bit too repetitive for its own good, but most movie tie-in games are repetitive before the first hour is over, so a little boredom by hour five can be forgiven.

The graphics on “Monsters vs. Aliens” are a mixed bag. The film itself looks so amazing that some people might be turned off by some of the graphic problems in the tie-in but the gameplay is remarkably smooth. There are no glitches to be found and while the 2-D style may be a turn-off at first for fans of the 3-D movie, one quickly gets accustomed to the look of the game.

Monsters vs. Aliens
Monsters vs. Aliens
Photo credit: Activision

What’s wrong with “Monsters vs. Aliens”? The multi-player, which allows a second player to join in as Dr. Cockroach and help out player one with a targeted shooting system is a little weird. It feels like an afterthought. I can’t imagine anyone would enjoy playing the Cockroach role for too long. It seems like a way to crowbar the character into the game.

It also feels like “MvA” could have had a lower price point than $49.99 for the PS3 version. $10 an hour with no online multiplayer capability is a stretch. Especially when hours 3-5 feature as much repetition as this title. Activision should have either cut the price in half or double the game length.

Your enjoyment of “Monsters vs. Aliens” will come down to your tolerance for repetition - using the same gameplay devices in increasingly difficult situations - and your acceptance of the brevity of the title going in. This gamer, one who grew up in an era when Mario could really just jump and occasionally shoot fireballs, is more tolerant of repetition than a lot of other critics, especially when what’s being repeated is as enjoyable as the action in “Monsters vs. Aliens”.

The fact is that kids, the main target audience for a game named “Monsters vs. Aliens,” don’t care about repetition. They’ll watch the same movie and show over and over again and listen to the same “High School Musical” and “Miley Cyrus” records until their parents’ heads explode. The fact that “Monsters vs. Aliens” is only moderately repetitive for this older critic means it will likely be even less of a problem for younger gamers. “MvA” could have been better, but I’ll admit that I expected it to be much, much worse.

‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ was released and developed by Activision. It is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older). The version reviewed was for the PS3, but the title is also available for the Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PS2 and PC. It was released on March 24th, 2009.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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