The Ben 10 franchise has had a turbulent past in videogames. Taking the rough with the smooth, Mr. Tennyson has at least provided some enjoyable – if entirely forgettable – formulaic genre experiences, but at his worst he’s seen some ghastly design not fit for any gamer, be they youngsters or not. Along with reboot of the animated series we now find ourselves with Ben 10 Omniverse gracing a grand variety of platforms offering players the chance to experience new and old in a similar fashion to Sonic Generations, and if Namco Bandai can match even one ounce of SEGA’s ingenuity this will surely be Ben’s finest interactive hour.
The first thing that strikes you about Ben 10 Omniverse is the quality of the visual design. While previous Ben 10 videogames have been decidedly lacklustre in their attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the cartoon series, Ben 10 Omniverse manages to elegantly bring to life the new look in 3D. It is genuinely rather shocking how close the videogame comes to the associated artwork. While children’s titles often rest on their laurels, knowing that they’ll have an audience ready and waiting regardless of their quality, Ben 10 Omniverse has clearly had some effort and significant attention given to capturing the spirit of the hugely successful franchise,
In essence, Ben 10 Omniverse is a modern day scrolling beat-‘em-up akin to Streets of Rage or Final Fight. It’s a two-player co-operative God of War that’s appropriate for children, and in that regard you might think that it’s another of those titles which is designed for a parent to play with their child in a similar fashion to Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. This is a design ideal that Electronic Theatre wholly encourages, though sadly in the case of Ben 10 Omniverse there’s one vital ingredient missing: depth. The combat system – although clearly refined to accommodate the two different playable characters and all of their transformations – simply doesn’t offer enough variety or player customisation to invite any real investment.
It’s the two-punch delay that knocks Ben 10 Omniverse off its own perch. Clearly a measure put in to take into account the specials and branching combos that become available to the player as they progresses, it simply adds a stuttering to the combat that is noticeably uncomfortable. The enemy variety is well placed to counteract the many moves available, the environments – albeit occasionally bland – invite a degree of tactical play and the many transformations available do add a commendable degree of variety, so it’s a wonder why the development team decided to sully this remarkably well presented gameplay with such an obvious and immediate disengagement.
As the videogame is designed for co-operative play the fact that it’s weaker as a single-player experience is perhaps to be expected. The player is able to switch between Ben and Rook when playing solo and a second player is able to jump in at any point with a simple press of the Start button, clearly demonstrating that developer Monkey Bar Games has understood their target audience.
While Ben 10 Omniverse doesn’t break the formulaic genre piece tradition for the franchise, it does go against the grain by adding a worthwhile gameplay experience to the line-up. There are undoubtedly flaws in the design, but most fans of Ben Tennyson will be able to overlook these far easier than in any previous Ben 10 videogame. It may not present the same tug-and-pull between style and grace that Sonic Generations offered, but nonetheless Ben 10 Omniverse is a reasonably enjoyable children’s title.