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Ben 10: Omniverse - Wii U Review

Game Info
Ben 10: Omniverse

Wii U | D3Publisher / Monkey Bar Games | 1-2 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad; Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii U Pro Controller; Classic Controller
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15th January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8

It's been ages since I last thought about this, but back in 2003 (about ten years ago!) Konami put out the multi-platform brawler Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an adaptation to the then-current, animated television series of the same name. Despite not being an enthusiastic fan of the show or the brand, and even with the flaws the game had, what I do remember was that the game was fairly memorable, so much so that it stuck with me and I was reminded of its characteristics in my interactions with Ben 10: Omniverse. Similarly coinciding with a TV series but in a more developed, beat 'em up format, Ben 10: Omniverse hopes to attract both fans and even non-fans (such as myself) through vigorous, action-based elements without leaning towards being too uninspired in its design execution. Although the game puts players at ease with its padded climate, there's still a lack of confident ease as I reflect on the experience in its entirety. Truth be told, I'm actually a bit ticked off about the whole dilemma surrounding this game -- not because its flaws incite rage, but because there are multiple signs of good design here that might not even be seen as such due to some perspective-tainting flaws.

    Even with the themes that are at the forefront, the storyline behind Ben 10: Omniverse isn't anything out of the ordinary. Future sidekick Rook is accidentally sent spiraling into the past and must jump between two timelines as he co-ordinates with Young Ben from the past and Teen Ben from his own world. In actuality, you'll take control of Ben, who relies on the technology of his Omnitrix tool to transform into one of many alien creatures (with options varying slightly depending on the timeline), most of which are endowed with a different attribute as part of an element tree, including fire, in the case of Heatstrike, or ice, as is true of Diamondhead and Arcticguana. With the burly cast of characters you have at your disposal for shape-shifting purposes, it's nice to see the level of variety afforded by their different abilities, which can then be upgraded through experience points. Several of the specials in particular are quite neat, like how players can, for instance, trace a path as XLR8 and launch a sweeping ground attack at light speed. When playing with a second player, he or she will take control of Rook and use his multi-functional Proto-Tool for attack purposes, but really at all times during a single-player context he will remain present and actively involved in taking on whatever fearsome foes come your way.

The game can be played independently of the TV if you wish, but if not, the GamePad will function as your character wheel. Four creature shortcuts can be assigned to the +Control Pad, but if you hold any of the directional buttons down for a second, the complete collection will appear on the controller screen for your choosing. Unfortunately, the ability to play solely on the GamePad can only be toggled from the Main Menu, so that presents a hassle if you're in the middle of a level and are shooed away from the TV by a family member or friend.

    Control options are present for the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, the Classic Controller and the Wii U Pro Controller, but as far as the GamePad is concerned, the following rules apply: L-Stick is for movement; R-Stick to roll or sidestep evasively; B Button is to jump or double jump (not all have this capability); Y and X for light and heavy attacks, respectively; and by holding down ZR and pressing either Y, X, or A, you can unleash a special attack. When desiring to aim your specials definitively, whether it be chucking large rocks as Four Arms or lifting nearby enemies off the ground as Gravattack, the only character who isn't very reliable is Feedback. All others obey the direction you apply to these moves, which is refreshing. The only complaints I have with the setup of things is how the R Button is your main interact button, and the annoyance of having to look down on the GamePad repeatedly when you wish to change your available character assignments. Perhaps it would've been better off if the wheel could be pulled off with the R-Stick instead, but I don't have a strong opinion on the matter.

On the top-left of the screen, you'll notice that attached to the rectangular sidebars for tracking health and experience points, is an indication of how much energy you have in your Omnitrix at a given time. This meter, represented by green fluid, presents an immediate annoyance, in that players are restricted in how long they can maintain alien forms and execute special attacks before being forced back to their usual persona. Thankfully, Ben isn't useless when the gadget is zapped of energy and is in need of a recharge. But that being said, he's not Clark Kent -- there are no telephone booths he can hide himself in to temporarily protect himself from harm. He'll still be expected to engage in battle without his powers. If this were a single-player context, this design decision would've had a detrimental effect on the flow of things and given rise to regular stumbles. But the presence of a regular co-op model protects the game from falling victim to such a choice. Moreover, whether what exists at present is still disruptive to the flow or not is debatable.

    On the bright side, this switching mechanic creates two health gauges for you to work with, so as long as you don't run out of health while controlling Ben, you should be able to get out of tough scrapes without ever succumbing to your injuries. And if you go about things systematically with respect to which enemies you target, any orbs they drop that can refill your energy meter will extend the duration that you can remain in a particular form. Proving to be a similar cramp but for another reason entirely, are the details surrounding character movement. First of all, floaty jumps are common and out-of-place, as if some characters were less subject to a normal dose of gravity. In general, characters move at a more sluggish pace than they should, even being painfully slow -- Cannonbolt is one individual who is guilty of this very quality. Such is the case when pulling heavy objects to a set panel, sometimes while still under attack.

Locations visited take on familiar backdrops and settings of industrial areas, rooftops, underground passages, construction sites, high-tech laboratories, door mazes, elevator shafts, and sewer-like facilities. Many contain destructible environment pieces such as vendor structures and crates, as well as interaction circles that ensure certain characters get used in your journey -- Four Arms, for climbing across gratings, and Wildvine, for grappling across distances.

    With thanks to the accessibility brought on by the checkpoint system and the presence of portable save spots, there's very minimal upset and very little confusion to be had or even resisted, but that doesn't make it grievously linear. In more focused terms, there are brief puzzles that assist in tempering the repetition of battles without coming across as required imbalance offsets. Wildmutt and Gravattack are used in some areas to track footprints for determining the order of switches that must be pressed, passing an electric trap, or to bring down a raised platform. Appearing with frequency are door puzzles that involve energizing or activating switches so as to line up a complete symbol across three circular rings. Some of these attributes feel like borrowed ideas for sure, and it's probably a result of this that players will periodically long for more. But it is still reasonable to expect that these can be appreciated for the little they do to separate the game from that of a robotic flow.

    It is to be admitted that even with the combo system, the combat delivery may not have a significant stretch of depth, but it sure isn't monotonous either. As you engage in confrontations, sometimes you can use the environment -- namely, presence-detecting mines -- to do your work for you. But in situations where you had to do a bit of platforming to get to an area that may be unprotected by walls or railings, there is a need for caution that you could very well fall over the edge -- a real threat when using one of Heatstrike's jabs. There are even times when going ahead of the camera's position down to a lower level will announce that you died and cause you to get sent back to the last checkpoint, even when flooring is present. On a related subject, the bosses in this game only work to partial success. A few are indeed repetitive with no change in attack patterns, while others conclude with monsters being bested by annoying quick-time events. There are only two in the entire game that stand out -- the fight against Psyphon and the team-focused battle at the end of the game (again, ignoring the conclusion). 

I'm a little bit torn on the presentation side of things, because while relatively few issues rest with the game's default look (other than the comparisons that could be cited to Wii-level graphics), there is a worrying array of technical, audio, and visual concerns that can't be ignored. A cel-shaded motif is adopted throughout, which is always pleasant, but this isn't always supported well by the colour schemes that are seen in the environments. What is more, textures on characters' faces aren't especially great, appearing more polygonal than smooth and even bearing signs of aliasing or bad face lighting.

    Expanding the list even further is the fact that some enemy shadows appear like a series of blobs and puddles moving in unison; there are displays of illegal (see: glitchy) enemy behaviour; irritating mid-level, pseudo-cutscenes appear on occasion, resembling what was seen in The Amazing Spider-Man; and there are unstable parts to the game's design that flicker or disappear entirely, or cause the framerate to act up a bit. Additionally, there are minor camera discrepancies to be observed, but they're nothing heinous, and given my many experiences with horrid camera positioning, it could've been far worse. All while enemy fights are going on, some pretty entertaining battle themes are played, the traits of which work better than the comparatively more faint music used for the general atmosphere. And while the voice acting is appreciated as well, the audio in general has a fuzzy quality in places.

    The game features 11 stages in all, with the entire adventure lasting in and around the five-hour mark. Upon completion, you can go at it a second time under the Hero difficulty, which basically means that you get knocked back further when sustaining hits. Other than that and the existence of achievements that aren't at all worth striving after with intent, the game's length is pretty straightforward and participation will only continue if you have a friend you wish to play through the game with under a co-operative setting.

    It's misleading to say Ben 10: Omniverse is a bad game, because while being a bit out of its league, the execution is pleasantly well-fortified and will bring back memories of past beat 'em ups for experienced gamers, while younger folks will more than likely get sucked in by the productivity of everything. It's not exceptional whatsoever, and I think you'd be fooling yourself to expect it to be such. Instead, what we have here is a legitimately enjoyable brawler that could've turned out stronger using the very same elements, had it not been marred by its flaws. At the very least, these issues aren't parasitic to the fun factor, and I know kids and perhaps even a select few of an older crowd will feel the same way and accept the standard formula in spite of what has gone wrong.

17/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 6/10 - Varied moves and specials as part of an upgrade system, some unrefined mechanics, pleasing level design, bosses aren't very effective
Presentation 5/10 - Welcome art style that's supported to a fair degree, a considerable number of issues that touch on all facets
Enjoyment 4/5 - Fun combat that isn't overly repetitive, some may dislike the limitations tied to Ben's abilities, flow isn't robotic, purposeful puzzles
Extra Content 2/5 - About five hours in length, co-op offers reason to replay, not many secrets to discover along the way or afterward

Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Ben 10: Omniverse
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