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This article was originally submitted for publication in the August 1 Tri-State Gazette. Since it didn't make it in, I'm presenting it here as a blog. The review will hopefully show up (in a slightly modified form) in the August 16 issue.- m85
Phineas and Ferb are always the sort to both make everything they do fun as well as defy convention. And their first foray into non-handheld video games, Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, is a great example of that, as it's one of those rare exceptions to the old (and sadly usually too true) cliché that licensed video games are horrible.
Though using some of the elements of the TV-movie from which it gets its name, the game takes a clever direction by in a way telling a "story-within-a-story" of the movie rather than being a direct adaptation. After an original song written specifically for the game using footage from the movie to set the stage, we join Phineas and Ferb as they are trying to find their way home to their dimension, having just set foot in one that looks very much like their own...except for the fact everything is covered with gelatin. They'll have to make their way though this dimension- as well as a balloon dimension, a Steamboat Willie-style old-timey cartoon dimension, and a dimension where lawn gnomes reign surpreme- before finally making their way back to the 2nd Dimension and infiltrating Doofenshmirtz2's lair. Along the way, they'll be joined by their Resistance counterparts, Agent P, and a new character created specifically for the game, Terry the Turtle, an OWCA agent who doubles as the pet of 2nd Dimension Baljeet.
The developer, High Impact Games, is made up of veterans responsible for the Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter franchises. I've never played any of those games, so I can't tell you how this game compares to those in terms of gameplay and style. But what I can tell you is that this is a fun and funny game filled with innovative gameplay and a sense of humor that perfectly captures the spirit of Phineas and Ferb. Players may find themselves stuck in some spots briefly, but probably not for long, as the layout of the game is very straightforward and the gameplay is never too difficult, making it perfect for both kids and adults, just like the show it's based on.
And much like the show, this game has a lot to offer in many different fields. A bunch of quirky weapons such as a baseball launcher and an orange soda cannon, which are used to defeat robots and other unusual enemies, making the game filled with lots of action but not too much real physical violence (despite the game somehow still getting an E10+ rating for its slapstick combat). Two-character co-op play which is enjoyable with one player (as I played it), but is probably more fun when teaming up with a friend (especially since at the end of each level each player's achievements are compared for a little friendly competition). Different minigames and level styles mixed into the main gameplay which are really unique, including manuvering a baseball through a small hole Death Star trench-style and some really fun shooting stages remincent of Space Invaders or Galaga, only with a first-person view instead of top-down. The entire main voice cast bringing life to their characters with dialogue that's always in-character and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Some quirky video game pop culture references (such as Doofenshmirtz2 stating that our heroes have absolutely no chance of survival make their time). Some really innovative boss battles, including a very funny robot fight. Just plain silly situations of the sort that fans of the show have come to know and love- such as Phineas and Ferb sneaking into Doofenshmirtz2's lair with Doof masks on and a robot tour guide as easily fooled by it as Doofenshmirtz Prime is when Agent P isn't wearing his hat, not questioning the fact that there happens to be two of him. And a lot of other surprises that I'll let you find for yourselves.
The game itself is by no means a sweeping epic- it took me about a full afternoon to finish straight through with no pauses. But it doesn't feel too short or too long- much like one of Phineas and Ferb's own projects, it's a great diversion to pass the time when you have nothing else to do on an afternoon. Plus, there's a lot more to discover after finishing the game, as your weapons can be upgraded both by using them over time and by finding hidden upgrades and hidden tokens scattered throughout each level will let you play Skee-Ball and crane games to collect even more hidden goodies, such as goofy new sounds and colors for your weapons, new clothes for your characters, trophies, and additional characters, including familiar OWCA agents such as Pinky the Chihuahua and Peter the Panda and familiar Danvillians such as Baljeet and Isabella.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is a great game and a fun way to pass the time as we count down the last few days to the movie itself. Kudos to High Impact and Disney Interactive Studios for really capturing the Phineas and Ferb spirit- and making a really fun game to boot.
The Wii version of the game was played for this review.