Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: July 21, 2009
Recently, there's been an interesting trend with games based on licensed properties: They've started to increase in overall quality. There are still plenty of examples of games that have become terrible interactive experiences, but the number of games that hover between tolerable and good has been on the rise. This is especially true of the Xbox 360 and PS3, where one has a better chance of finding a good licensed title in their respective libraries. With the exception of the portable releases, games based on Disney properties have usually been reliable enough to be good gift ideas for someone who's a fan of said property in the first place. Getting a Disney game in the 8-bit NES era, for example, usually meant that you had a good gaming experience ahead of you. G-Force, an action game from Eurocom and Disney Interactive Studios based on the movie of the same name, strives to keep that tradition alive, and it does an admirable job even though there are a few setbacks along the way.
The premise of the game is loosely based on the film premise. You play as Darwin, the guinea pig leader of a special government agency code-named G-Force. With your crack team of agents, your job is to stop billionaire Leonard Sabre from achieving world domination through the use of his manufactured appliances, which can turn deadly when sent a special piece of computer code. That's about as basic of a story as one can get, though. While one really can't complain too much about the plot in most movie-based games, one thing that stands out here is how much is dependent on the player having already seen the movie prior to playing the game. For example, the characters will talk about Speckles being gone. After some time, Speckles will return safe and sound. Players are never exactly told what happened to Speckles, so one would have to assume that it was an event featured in the movie that everyone was referencing. The plot holes aren't big enough to act as a deterrent to gameplay, but it would have been nice to fill in players who haven't seen the film yet.
Throughout the game, you control one of two different characters. Darwin is your main character, as you'll control him during most of the game; he'll be performing almost all of the action and platforming. The other character is Mooch, a fly that can fly through smaller obstacles and slow time in order to reach switches and grab items that Darwin can't get. Despite the fact that there are three other members of the team present, you never get a chance to control or interact with them outside of the cut scenes. It would have added some variety, at least cosmetically, if you were able to control the other team members, but considering that Darwin is able to do almost everything, it's not something that'll be missed.
As far as gameplay goes, G-Force performs better than expected. If there can be any comparison to how the game would play, it would be akin to any of the Ratchet & Clank titles. Players can fight off enemies with an electric whip for melee attacks or plasma weapons for distance-based projectile attacks. Enemies are varied enough and try to use basic tactics to lure you into getting hurt. There aren't any overtly difficult puzzles in the game since the focus is squarely on action, and it does a good job of delivering it in good, controlled doses. Unlike most kids' games, G-Force is quite lengthy and provides a good sense of challenge when played on the normal level. These traits alone make it stand out among other children's games — in a good way.
The controls feel natural for someone who's already used to first- or third-person shooters. The left analog stick moves your character while the right analog stick controls the camera. The A button handles both the jumping and the jetpack-assisted leaps. The left trigger draws your weapon while the right trigger either fires your weapon when holding down the left trigger or unleashes the electric whip by itself. The left bumper button handles lock-on, the right bumper button handles a turbo boost, and the face button handles weapon management. The result is something that isn't too complicated for first-person shooter newcomers to handle, especially since you can easily whip your enemies instead of shooting them. Again, the closest comparison to this system would be the Ratchet & Clank series, which also proved to be easy for anyone to maneuver. All in all, there's really nothing to complain about with the game's controls.
The graphics are as nice as some of the more recent titles based on animated movies. The colors for the characters and the environment are brighter than in most current-generation games, but not to the point where it's cartoon-like. The character models also look great. All you'll ever see are animals and animated killer appliances, but they all feel like they belong in the game. The smooth animations are really impressive, moving at around 60 frames per second. The mouth movements for Darwin and company are also excellent, with the lip movements rarely being out of sync with the spoken dialogue. The only thing missing is any sort of fur shading on any of the G-Force members. As good as the guinea pigs look, it would have been a much better look if they employed the fur shading techniques seen in games like Blinx: The Time Sweeper and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.
Because the film is being highly touted as a big 3-D event, it's only natural that the game also be displayed in 3-D. Using the included glasses, you can go into the video options at any time to change the display from standard 2-D to 3-D. The display will look bad without the glasses, but once you have them on, you'll be amazed to see objects have a subtle pop to them. It's quite nice, but there are plenty of drawbacks to the feature that limit it to being a gimmick at best. For starters, not everything really makes use of the 3-D effect. Some cut scenes, for example, remain flat and bring you out of the illusion just enough for you to be underwhelmed.
The most detrimental aspect, however, remains the 3-D technology itself. The game uses the basic red lens/blue lens 3-D effect, and while it may not be advanced 3-D technology, it works. The drawback is that it robs the screen of vibrant color, making it hard to see some of the scanned items and your health meter. The 3-D effect also blacks out the sides of your screen, giving you less screen space to see enemies with, which hurts if you decide to play the game at higher difficulty levels. You'll end up trying the gimmick once before shelving the wow factor in favor of more practicality.
The sound is just below perfect for a children's game. The effects are crisp, with explosions and gunfire coming through clearly on the speakers. Even the appliances sound good when they start snapping and growling before attacking. The music fits well and promotes a heightened sense of action. There's no piece that feels out of place or too whimsical for the subject matter.
What surprises gamers is the voice work. Every line is delivered nicely, which is a given since some of the voice actors from the movie reprise their roles here. It's a bit disappointing to learn that not all of the original voice actors are here, but the sound-alikes do an amazing job of replicating the original voices so you may want to check the game credits to see who's who in the game.
Gimmicks aside, G-Force is an enjoyable game. The controls are solid, the graphics are quite good and the sound is better than expected. The game isn't too difficult for the intended audience, and the hint system is smart enough to know when the hand-holding should quit. Fans of the movie and those looking for a kids' game with a bit more teeth to it will find G-Force to be a good experience overall.Score: 7.5/10
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