Star of the popular Cartoon Network series Ben 10, Ben Tennyson (see what they did there?), struts his shape-shifting stuff in his latest video game venture; Ben 10: Omniverse on the PS3.
Ben has an incredibly handy magic watch that he wears called an Omnitrix which allows him to take on the form of various different aliens. His trusty companion Rook, who is apparently a plumber, has an equally handy tool that allows him to use different weapons depending on what he needs. I don’t quite get why Rook is a plumber or why a plumber is able to do the things Rook can and the game makes no attempt at explaining this to non Ben 10 veterans. Rather unsurprisingly right from square one Ben 10: Omniverse is clearly aimed at existing fans of the series.
The plot is a slightly dumbed down version of any standard time-travel/multiple-universe quest with certain levels based in the past with a young Ben 10 and some in the present with teen Ben 10. It’s not too patronizing and makes sense as far as time travel and related issues go but most of the time it doesn’t add anything to the game.
The tutorial reminds me of something from the last generation, at best. Every 30 seconds or so a full screen pop-up will impose itself on you pausing the game until your finished reading it. Even if the instructions had just been read out and remained on-screen as subtitles it would have been a much more integrated experience.
COMBAT & UPGRADES
Combat is bar far the most important part of Ben 10. Not because it’s ground breaking but because if you play Ben 10 you need to be prepared to spend 96% of your time doing it. I cannot stress enough how repetitive and basic it is. Each alien has the same six moves once they are at level 3 and some have special moves where you hold “R2” and press a face button. This is literally the full extent of the variation in Ben 10.
A group of enemies will spawn for you to fight and once you have defeated them all you move to another area and defeat another set of enemies. At some point you will reach a simple puzzle, all of which are the same format, and eventually fight a boss.
The bosses are just bigger enemies with more health and a few unique moves. There are at most a dozen enemies on the entire game, not included bosses, which really drives home just how repetitive Ben 10 is.
Each alien can be upgraded twice which unlocks the move sets mentioned above and each level costs 2000 xp. Experience is earned by opening special containers and defeating enemies but its easy to get and almost perfectly worked out so that all your aliens are fully upgraded by the end of the game.
Rook plays your co-op partner that is either controlled by a second local player or the AI. Rook can also be upgraded and by default this is done automatically and seems to make little difference. The AI controls Rook fairly well but he really just acts as a sponge taking some of the damage instead of you.
The animations on the moves actually look very good with some surprisingly cool effects at times. The problem is whilst they all look very unique and different the moves themselves all essentially accomplish the same thing.
In reality there are actually only about four different aliens on the game if you don’t take into account differences in appearance. Some use heavy area attacks, some have stun attacks, some are fast and some have ranged attacks.
Using any of the moves the aliens have will drain your Omnitrix energy and once it’s depleted you will have to wait for it to recharge. It doesn’t take long but it does mean that during each battle some of your time will be spent spamming the same move over and over and the rest spent as Ben running around in circles waiting for his Omnitrix to recharge.
To make the repetition even worse certain moves of certain aliens seem to drain the Omnitrix less than others so I found myself using the same move and the same aliens constantly. And if you’re unfortunate enough to accidentally press “L1” and return to Ben’s natural form early you cannot change back until the Omnitrix is fully recharged which tediously extends the running around as Ben section of the battle.
This is not helped by totally unresponsive controls which at times have you frantically mashing at a button to switch to an alien form, I found standing still so I was only pressing one button at a time usually did the trick but it just added to things that stopped what little flow the game has.
The level design is unbelievably linear and forced. You are just simply not allowed to explore as there is only ever one way to go. Apart from a couple of exceptions the collectibles are in front of you or you are at shown where to go to get them.
The camera is fixed and you cannot move it at all. Most of the time this isn’t a problem but there are a few times where the frustration of being told where to look got to me. The bigger problem is that the camera pans really slowly. So slowly that I found myself waiting for it otherwise risk the ten second re-spawn timer coming on.
Your co-op partner Rook gets caught by the camera almost constantly and has to re-spawn. There is no punishment for this but it is annoying. What’s worse is when the level is designed so badly that you fall through holes in the floor that aren’t there and have to replay a good ten minutes of combat. In one area this happened to me four times in a row.
Progression to the next area is always halted by a green barrier that inexplicably disappears once you have defeated the wave of enemies before you. Occasionally enemies can spawn but not move or attack in any way which made them a little tricky to find, defeat and therefore move to the next area.
Though they lack substance, the alien attack animations look good and are all unique and varied. The level design is poor but the textures are good and apart from some weird spawning there where no graphical glitches. Ben 10 makes a good attempt at cell shading and looks very cartoon-like but there is nothing new, unique or exciting at work.
The music is repetitive and therefore gets boring by the end of the game. The sound effects in the combat are not too bad but there are only really a hand-full of different effects so again these get boring quite early on. Voice acting is good and clear to understand and some of the brief conversations enemies have before a fight are actually funny.
Three of the four hours it takes to complete Ben 10 are spent repeatedly performing incredibly basic combat moves and running around waiting until you are able to perform incredibly basic combat moves and the other hour being shuffled like cattle along the linear level design and falling through holes in the floor that aren’t really there.
Ben 10: Omniverse doesn’t fulfill the absolute number one rule of gaming which is to entertain. It is boring, repetitive, uninspired and dull. There may be some appeal for younger gamers who are fans of the Ben 10 cartoon but there are simply better games at the same price mark that are still child or family friendly that don’t just feel like a developer cashing in on a popular franchise name.
Ben 10: Omniverse is available now on PS3, XBOX 360, Wii U, Wii, 3DS and DS.