Developers: Monkey Bar Games
Publisher: D3 Publisher
I’m a firm believer that you can make a great game even if it is based around a kid’s TV show. In my head I envisage the best platformer/action game you’ve never experienced based on Thundercats (the proper one not the new-fangled anime style one). It’d have great character development, the large open world of Third Earth, RPG elements and you could even drive the Thundertank. Yet whilst these are clearly the whimsical dreams of a sad reviewer, the reason for their inclusion is because Ben 10: Omniverse sadly does what every other kids TV show game does: It sits nicely in the box labelled ‘Kid’s TV Show-based game’ and thus, by extension, it should also be transferable to the box labelled ‘mediocre’.
And that annoys me.
Not least because I view this particular premise as a good a basis as any to create a decent game. You play Ben Tennyson, a kid who by using his famous watch-style Omnitrix, can transform into various alien creatures to help defeat the evil Malware. You travel through the 3D levels, fighting groups of enemies as you go, being able to progress once each group of monsters is defeated. You are also accompanied by a new sidekick called Rook which allows for 2-player co-op during the adventure. All this sounds like a very good start. It could so easily have been a game that combines the best bits of Streets of Rage, Lost Kingdoms 2 with RPG elements to create a pretty good game. Sadly its missing a fair bit of spark and creativity which becomes apparent when you start playing.
The ace in the hole that Ben 10: Omniverse should have are the alien creatures that Ben can change into throughout the game to help out during the adventure. You’ll find that these creatures split into two different groups. The first group are the creatures that have specific abilities that Ben will need to utilise to progress. For example, Ben can transform into Four Arms to climb onto walls, Artiguana to freeze fast moving platforms, or Feedback to manipulate electronic charges. All these abilities help solve the various puzzles you will encounter on your journey. The second group of creatures are the creatures that solve no other purpose than to add to the creature roster. Their characteristics do not assist in the game, and they just are padding to the numbers. You can map 4 different creatures to the D-Pad to transform into and there’s no real reason to choose any from the second group aside from personal preference, which feels like a very big missed opportunity from the developers.
But what also makes the creature side a missed opportunity is how their abilities are executed in the game. For instance Four Arms can only climb walls at certain entry and exit points of the wall and is painfully slow. When you consider how easy and natural climbing feels in games like Darksiders, this just feels like such a step backwards. But also there are very few combos required between the wealth of abilities on offer. It’s very much a walk to a certain type of puzzle, solve it with a single creature, move on. The later levels mix it up a bit but never enough to imply imagination on the developer’s part. If anything it just extends the time taken to open a door or get past the current barrier.
And what frustrates even more is that clearly the developers have a sense of what could have been achieved, as in certain cut-scenes you see Ben and Rook traversing the landscape in much more interesting ways – like sliding down icy pipes on Artiguana – but the player doesn’t get to control or attempt it as the game takes this excitement and has it for you. Also at the end of each boss fight, there is a “finishing move” that is made up of Rook and Ben - in various creature forms - which is completed through a series of easy QTEs. Again this showcases combos from the various creatures that could have been implemented into the boss fights themselves in order to defeat it. But as with all enemies in the game, just jamming the attack buttons for long enough will kill any enemy. Again a frustrating missed opportunity.
Another feature of the game is the fact that you play as Ben Tennyson of two different ages through time-travel. Now the act of time-travelling has been used well in many games. Ocarina of Time for example, heck even Day of the Tentacle used it in a clever way. It’s a feature that if implemented well can enhance a game and throw up some interesting puzzles / obstacles. To put it bluntly, there’s almost no need for it in this game. There are only two instances in the story where you do something in the past that affects the future and one of these is for the final boss. And time-travelling isn’t something you control either. Again the game does it for you, and you will start each level as either young Ben or teen Ben and do what you do in every level, which is fight group after group of monsters. The only difference between the two Bens is how they look and the fact that they each have a few unique monsters that the other cannot take the form of, but the majority of useful creatures are there throughout.
The design of the levels you traverse are decent enough for the beat-em-up and puzzling that’s on offer, but the levels never go out of their way to be clever or involved. It’s essentially just corridors and arenas to fight in, with the odd jump or wall to climb thrown in. Now whilst these are clean and effective, they’re uninspiring and again given the options of creature abilities, could have provided much more in terms of variety. As you go through the game, the camera follows you around but isn’t controllable. For the main this isn’t a problem because the camera positions during fighting are well placed. However there were a few occasions in the game where the camera didn’t quite catch up with me when I was platforming, and made it difficult for me to jump over gaps or obstacles. A quick restart after death, and everything was fine the second time, but when it happened it was annoying, and a controllable camera would have prevented it.
So overall, Ben 10: Omniverse just feels like a watered down version of a game that had a lot of potential. A lot of that is naturally down to its target audience of pre-teen children, who both want and need an instantly accessible game rather than one with depth. It means that the simple controls, similarity of creatures, spoon-fed action and monotonous music give a short experience (The game will take you 5 hours to complete in total) that children will like but others will get frustrated with. It is simply a game that could have been so much more, had it not been trying to appeal to the people younger than its 12 PEGI rating. But as such, it’s a game that will be picked up and enjoyed by its audience simply because of its title, rather than the quality on display here.
- Will appeal to Ben 10 fans
- Some interesting puzzle elements
- Level design in uninspiring
- Not enough is made of creature’s abilities
- Gameplay is very repetitive
- It’s very short
The Short Version: Pick up Ben 10: Omniverse if you have young children who are a fan of the series. They will no doubt enjoy the TV show references, and familiar characters. There’s also enough to engage them here for the few hours required to complete the game. However if you don’t fall into that demographic, then this game will feel very basic. A poor attempt at combining fighting, platforming and RPG elements results in a game, that feels uninspiring, repetitive, patronising and , dare I say it, boring.