Video games based upon movies, unfortunately, don’t have a good track record. Most of them are just cheap cash-ins to encourage moviegoers to fork out an extra $100 or so for the accompanying game. Thankfully Monsters vs Aliens does not fall into this category, as it introduces some great ideas and is fun to play - for a short while, anyway.
Monsters vs. Aliens is an animated feature made by Dreamworks where five monsters have been imprisoned by the US military to protect humans, but all the monsters want to do is live a peaceful life on a sunny island away from civilisation. Their wish is granted, but only if they rid the world of an alien invasion!
You get the chance to control three characters – each with their own individual levels catering to their respective abilities. The player will have the most fun with Susan a.k.a Ginormica; her levels are played out on rollerblades. B.O.B. is a piece of blue goo who can stick to walls and even absorb enemies into his body and spit them out. The Missing Link is the third character. Half ape, half fish, his special talent is to simply beat up anything that stands in his way.
As previously mentioned, Susan’s levels are the best as they borrow elements from the Tony Hawk games, such as grinding and wall riding, but with the added tension of enemies with laser beams and death traps to avoid. B.O.B.’s stages are also unique, as his ability to attach onto ceilings allows for some stealth action. There are also times he can use his spit attack as a machine gun where he shoots down enemy helicopters. Levels involving The Missing Link, however, are repetitive and boring as it’s just like every other platform game where you press X to jump and square to attack.
For a game that’s aimed at kids, there should be a co-op feature like in Lego Star Wars so a friend is able to join in the fun. This game has included that feature, but the additional player does not get to play as one of the three main protagonists. No, you just point at and shoot baddies while the other player hogs all the action. There are no other multiplayer options in the game, which is quite disappointing as the single-player missions lose their spark once you have seen all of what the monsters can do.
A redeeming factor is how much more involved Hollywood is now when it comes to the video game industry. All the voice actors from the movie lend their talents, including Reese Witherspoon and funnyman Seth Rogen. The graphics are not too shabby either; although they are not of the quality of the film just yet, you will be mightily impressed seeing the sun set across the Golden Gate Bridge as you skate around the streets of San Francisco as Susan.
To increase the replay value of the game, scattered throughout the levels are DNA fragments for the player to collect. The more you collect, the more bonus content is unlocked in the DNA lab, with extra missions as well as concept art and stills from the movie for the player to view. Audio commentary is also available, although it is just the thoughts of the in-game characters as opposed to the thoughts of the developers.
I was surprised at how playable Monsters vs Aliens is, as the unique abilities of the monsters add a whole new dimension to the platform game genre. Unlike many other licensed titles, a lot more thought and input was put into the game to do what it set out to achieve - and that is to occupy the attention of kids.