Licensed games have a reputation for being rush-jobs that only a fan of the original property could like. Ben 10: Omniverse from Vicious Cycle and D3 Publisher doesn’t break from that mold, but it still ends up being pretty fun regardless. Omniverse faithfully adapts the fourth and latest Ben 10 animated TV series in videogame form, featuring numerous transformations for the lead character and the series’ actual voice talent. More importantly for us, it packs enjoyable 2-player local co-op too.
The Ben 10: Omniverse show jumps back and forth through time, following lead character Ben Tennyson at ages 11 and 17. Ben wears a wrist gadget called the Morpher, I mean Omnitrix that allows him to transform into various alien species and fight crime. He is joined in the series and game by a new character called Rook who possesses the DeLorean-like ability to travel between the two time periods.
The actual plot of the game is tough to understand – nearly impossible if you haven’t seen the show. It starts out with Ben and Rook running through a lengthy training simulation, and before you know it, Ben and Rook are running around in different time periods having incredibly disjointed conversations. Serious, they start talking about the main villain Malware with no introduction at all, almost as if the player is experiencing the middle of a longer conversation. Nor does the game attempt to explain why Rook calls himself a Plumber, though series fans will understand just fine.
Of course the game is targeted specifically at Ben 10 fans, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t establish a little context for new players. At minimum it should have featured the actual TV series intro with its catchy theme music. Instead we get no intro at all other than the rote conversation introducing the training simulation.
Putting aside the poorly-told story, Omniverse is actually one of the better kids’ licensed titles I’ve played. It plays a lot like the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, with Ben and Rook beating up hundreds of robots who look like they came from Batman Beyond and other enemies, plus some platforming and light puzzle solving. Ben is always accompanied by Rook; if no second player joins in, the AI controls him. Rook’s AI often makes mistakes like leaping to his death, but I was thankful for his presence whenever I lacked a co-op partner.
Bloxx deserves his own game!
Both characters play quite differently. Ben starts out with a handful of alien transformations and gains 13 in total by the end of the game. His alien personas are well-designed and distinctive; I especially dug the creature made of Lego-like pieces, Bloxx. These transformations not only increase Ben’s offensive power, but they’re also needed to solve puzzles and get around obstacles. Gravattack can raise and lower objects to operate switches and create pathways, Cannonbolt rolls into a ball and launches off of ramps to hit switches, Four Arms climbs fences, etc.
Attacking enemies depletes Ben’s transformation, at which point he reverts to his older or younger human self. It then takes a few seconds for the transformation to become available again. The system works, but I’d rather stay transformed indefinitely and perhaps have some other incentive to play as human Ben.
Only the second player gets to control Rook, who has a stiff and formal personality that I found grating. A character like that really needs a British accent to be endearing; otherwise you just want to forcefully pull the stick out of their butts. Anyway, Rook’s powers work similar to Ben’s, but he has four weapons instead of alien transformations. Because Rook offers so much less variety, it’s much more fun to play as Ben.
Omniverse is not a tough game. Even on the highest difficulty, I never once died from enemy attacks. Only falling off of ledges killed me. But the respawn checkpoints can be spaced awfully far apart at times, so dying on your own sucks.
Why shouldn't there be an electric gorilla?
Thankfully, in co-op games you’ll respawn on the spot after 3 seconds - provided the other player stays alive. Thus co-op is a bit easier - always a good thing. Sometimes you’ll come across switches that require two people to stand on, and even puzzles in which one player has to help the other reach a switch (in single-player, the AI helps work the switches). Both players are confined to the same screen; walk off and you have 10 seconds to return before dying and respawning. The only real co-op disappointment is that the second-player doesn’t earn Achievements/Trophies.
Like most licensed kids’ games, Ben 10: Omniverse will mostly appeal to the kids who watch the show and Achievement hunters. A more coherent story and some attempt at welcoming non-fans into the narrative would have increased the game’s general appeal. Still, Ben 10’s numerous transformations make for enjoyable and varied gameplay. Plus it retails for $39.99, making it an easier purchase. Come in with appropriate expectations and you’ll probably have a good time... And if someone in your household enjoys Ben 10, consider Omniverse a must-buy.
The Co-Optimus review of Ben 10: Omniverse is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.