IGN Review of Ben 10 Alien Force Vilgax Attacks
Being a kid is tough enough, considering the pressures of school, building friendships and other growing pains. But imagine how much harder it would be if you and your friends also had to fend off interstellar threats to all life in the universe? For Ben Tennyson, the hero of the Ben 10 cartoon series, these are daily issues that he has to face. The latest adventure from Papaya Studios and D3 Publisher, Ben 10: Alien Force -- Vilgax Attacks pits Ben against a returning nemesis that plans to destroy the Earth. Although the usefulness of the various aliens in the game can be a bit limited, the mix of action, puzzle solving and platforming is a decent adventure for fans of the show.
The story behind Vilgax Attacks revolves around one of Ben's worst enemies invading Earth in an attempt to destroy the entire planet with a weapon known as a Null Void Projector. The plan succeeds, and when Earth seems lost, Professor Paradox arrives and turns back time so that Ben and his friends can track down the power sources of this weapon so Vilgax can't put his plot in motion.
Unlike the console versions of Ben 10: Alien Force, the DS version of the game is much more of a platforming adventure where you'll use the various abilities of Ben's alien forms to bypass environmental hazards. For example, thanks to Swampfire's fire skills, players can walk through flame jets. The DS version doesn't feature an energy gauge, so players can continually use their abilities at will to eliminate any enemies they face. This can make the gameplay a bit easier, although the game tries to overcompensate for the lack of energy restriction by throwing larger groups of enemies at you at a time. While that doesn't solve the ease of the game entirely, it does give you more energy orbs that can be used to upgrade the skills of a particular alien form.
What's more, unlike the console versions, playing the Ship sections in space adds to your upgradable orb points, allowing you to further strengthen your characters. You'll need to be careful, however, because you'll have to balance the frequency of your shots with the energy reserves of the ship or you'll leave yourself open to incoming attacks.
However, the DS has additional issues as well, the biggest one being the lack of context given to certain gameplay features. For example, there are three separate Omnitrix icons that you can collect in the game as you explore each level, but there's no tutorial info or hints on what they do or how they work. I had to stumble into figuring out that the red one affected your health and the blue one gave you temporary invincibility.
After beating the game, I'm still a bit hazy on what the green one does, just as I'm unsure as to why my account had twelve Omnitrix icons once I'd finished my playthrough. Are they continues? Are they some secret weapon? I don't know, and considering that the game just allows you to replay any mission on a harder difficulty level, it doesn't help the replay value, either. Another issue is that you'll focus primarily on one or two forms, leaving the others alone. This issue is exacerbated when dealing with the unique DS unique creature, Upchuck, who seems completely useless in battle. While you'll use a form a bit more often than you would on the consoles, you'll still inevitably wind up reverting to certain forms for movement or attacks, leaving the others alone.
While there are some confusing gameplay elements, the visual presentation is quite good when it comes to character model animation, which is smoothly done, regardless of Ben's forms or the enemies he faces. The environments that you fight across are nicely drawn, and the implementation of the touch screen to instantly switch back and forth between forms is a large plus. The only thing that hampers the platforming is that some platforming sections can cut the camera off, providing you with half the environmental real estate to fight on. The top down presentation of the Ship shooter sections across both screens is done well also, so you can keep your eyes focused on incoming fire while preparing for approaching enemies. Unfortunately, there's no voice over, and while the music changes for each world, it's not anything that will keep your attention.
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