|System: Xbox 360, PS3*, Wii U, 3DS, DS, Wii|
|Dev: Monkey Bar Games|
|Pub: D3 Publisher|
|Release: November 13, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Cartoon Violence|
by Jeff Dunn
I understand why Ben 10 Omniverse exists. It’s the same as with most other licensed games—because the franchise it’s based on (in this case, a popular Cartoon Network show of the same name) is really popular. I can’t say I’ve watched much of it myself, but apparently young kids out there eat this stuff up. I suppose it’s charming to the right mind. So there’s a demand for more unadulterated stuff with this little shapeshifting dude’s face on it to be produced. The publisher (D3) will publish it, the developer (Monkey Bar Games) will develop it, and the distributor (Cartoon Network Interactive) will distribute it. Then lots of kids will run out and buy it, or their parents will recognize the big logo from their picture boxes and get it for them. The machine will continue to chug along. This industry is just that, an industry, and every once in a while it takes a game like Ben 10 Omniverse to remind us of that. This isn’t a good thing.
Omniverse is the seventh Ben 10 title overall, and features the titular young superhero on a time-traveling journey to thwart the plans of the villainous Malware, a mech-monster-thing that wants to destroy the Earth. Ben is joined by his partner Rook, a humorless, by-the-numbers alien cop who hops across different dimensions to work with both teen Ben and young Ben to find a way to stop the dastardly menace. The three of them beat stuff up, beat more stuff up, and then beat bigger stuff up to do that. Ben, as series fans well know, utilizes his magic Omnitrix watch to transform into various alien creatures for extra stuff-beating capabilities. I’ll let you guess how this story ends.
Why does Malware want to destroy the Earth? Because he’s “The Bad Guy,” I guess. After playing through Omniverse, I still really have no idea. I just pretended he had daddy issues—it made things more interesting. The plot is really a throwaway excuse to keep you moving from place to place, and it’s just about as basic superhero stories get. Simple can still mean good, and there are actually some witty one-liners to be found here, but this is a thin, ordinary tale of “guy you’re supposed to root for” versus “guy you’re supposed to root against.”
But okay, there’s only so much a developer can do when it’s working with a license like this. The whole reason many people would be giving this game a look in the first place is because it features characters they know from TV, so nobody should expect heartstrings to be pulled here. I imagine “it’s just for kids” to be the kind of justification for its banality. I get that.
That’s still no excuse for the totally uninspired game that lies beneath, however. Practically everything about Ben 10 Omniverse is basic, rehashed, or oversimplified to the point of annoyance. It’s a straightforward 3D beat-em-up with some light platforming and uncomplicated puzzle-solving elements. Both Bens are accompanied by Rook as a surprisingly competent A.I. partner for the entirety of the game’s eleven levels, but a second player can jump in at any time during the campaign and punch things along with you. Think of it like a mix between Marvel Ultimate Alliance and God of War, only without the charm of the former, the satisfying combat of the latter, and the passion of either.
Every level plays out exactly the same way. You run down the corridors of a bland cave/street/factory/laboratory/whatever, beating up one of the game’s eight or so enemy types (which will spawn out of nowhere) by mashing square for a light attack or triangle for a heavy attack—your choice. All of these attacks lack that ever-important “oomph” factor, by the way, but doing them for about 20 minutes will take you to one of the boss fights. Those are, in essence, nothing more than battles with larger and stronger standard enemies. Then you mash some more until those fall over too.
Sure, you can use a variety of unlockable—through the game’s barebones leveling system—simple combos and special moves by holding the right shoulder button in conjunction with your attacks, but you’ll never really have a reason to since almost every enemy here is a complete pushover. They literally cannot move, counter, or touch you if you’re in the middle of assaulting them. The rare instances of difficulty come from spammed attacks from afar—a guy throwing fireballs from a faraway platform, for example—or one particular enemy who takes off almost all of your health in one blow.
Don’t be fooled, though, this is a game that requires almost no skill on the part of the player. Now, that might not be the worst thing if you’re a parent looking for something your young child can play on his/her own, but for the rest of us, it makes things far less engaging than they have any right being. Add onto that the lifelessness and repetitive nature of each level and you’re left with a game that’s just plain boring.