As far as video game tie-ins to cartoons go, most are pretty horrible. They’re carbon-copies that do great injustices to the more popular titles of the genres, and for the most part they’re usually not worth your time. Ben 10: Alien Force is no exception. Based on the popular cartoon of the same name, it’s your average, run-of-the-mill 2D brawler that offers little challenge and an extremely short single-layer campaign.
If you’re not familiar with the cartoon, it follows the events of the original series, Ben 10. A teen named Ben Tennyson is in control of a watch-like device named the Omnitrix. The Omnitrix allows Ben to transform into several different alien forms, but only for ten minutes each time. Long story short, Ben is a threat to all the evildoers in the universe.
The game mechanics are simple: defeat all enemies onscreen until an arrow gives you the go-ahead to move forward, then kill off all the baddies on the next screen. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s the very same up until the end of the level, where you may or may not fight a boss character. Nothing new here, folks. However, by-the-book as it is, it still manages to avoid being an engaging handheld experience.
The game is played primarily through the top screen, where the fighting takes place. The lower screen is relegated to controlling the Omnitrix, which can scroll through each of Ben’s alter egos. The DS stylus can be used to select which alien form players want to use to power through the level. However, the Omnitrix rules do not seem to apply to its in-game counterpart. Ben can stay in any of the alien forms for over ten minutes, which takes away any strategic edge the game may have previously had if it had retained a limit for character usage. Instead of having to use critical thinking to switch between forms and solve what could be challenging puzzles, full power is attained at the onset. This will allow players to pick whichever alien form they’re most comfortable with, or the one with the cheapest combos, and pummel away at the competition. This was a lazy and unintelligible move, because it effectively removed any sort of variety the game could have potentially had.
What’s more, there is no discernible difference between each of the alien forms. They all move at roughly the same speed and possess nearly the same abilities. This confirms the theory that D3 Publisher put little or no thought into character models, just attempting to get the game released as quickly as possible. Even stranger is the exclusion of some of the staple Ben 10 characters such as Ben’s cousin Gwen. While Gwen and Kevin (a recurring character) are fighting off aliens in the cartoon, they are only barely featured in just a few uninspired mini-games that serve little purpose beyond breaking the monotony a bit.
While the gameplay leaves much to be desired, sprites are rendered quite well, and actually look much like their animated counterparts. Admittedly, this is one of the easiest things to get right especially when it comes to a DS title, but Ben 10 fans will appreciate the attention to detail given to each sprite. Backgrounds have not been given the same treatment, sadly. Nondescript locations abound, while there are little to no recognizable locations from the actual cartoon.
The final verdict: Ben 10: Alien Force is your average brawler that just happens to be set in the Ben 10 universe. There is little or no replay value, levels are even blander than the show is 90% of the time, and if you’re looking for shameless fighting action, then there are about a million other titles out there that do it better. Pass on this one and pick up something much more multi-faceted, even if you’re one of Ben’s loyal followers. I can assure you, he’ll understand.