Format: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, DS, 3DS
Reviewed On: PS3

When I last reviewed a game developed for kids, I vowed never again. It almost killed me. The pain still fresh, I gingerly popped Ben 10: Omniverse into my PS3, and held my breath. Thankfully, the game was nowhere as bad as I expected. In truth, it's actually quite a lot of fun to play.

The game is a pretty standard brawler, with the option of two player co-op, where another player can drop in at any time. Player one plays the titular Ben while player two, or the games AI, takes control of his new partner Rook. As you progress through the game, you'll find yourself whisked back in time and take control of Young Ben (from the first series). It's actually quite an ambitious storyline. Ben's partner Rook gets thrown back in time after a malfunction with the Omnitrix (don't you just hate it when that happens). While poking around in the past, game antagonist Malware absorbs Rook's Proto Tool, which is kind of like an alien swiss army knife/gun type thing - needless to say, it's a big deal for a bad guy to get his hands on one. This has a devastating effect on the future, creating a dystopia where Malware is pretty much top dog. Or whatever he's supposed to be. It's up to you to stop this from happening and SAVE THE WORLD!!!!!!

PhotobucketThankfully, I have some history with Ben 10, having been stranded on holiday one year with pretty dire weather and only one english speaking channel - Cartoon Network. As such, I was semi familiar with the story. For those that don't know, Ben 10 is an american kid who has been granted superpowers by an alien device, the Omnitrix (that looks suspiciously like a watch) allowing him to morph into aliens, and generally beat the ever loving crap out of bad guys. I don't have kids of my own, so once I came back home from holiday I didn’t keep up with story's universe. However, it would seem that young Ben is now a teenager in the latest cartoon series, Ben 10: Omniverse (on which this game is based), and his alien morph machine is now called the Ultimatrix. Don't worry if you don't know any of this already - you either a) don't have kids, and are very unlikely to buy the game or b) you don't have time to sit around and watch Cartoon Network all day. Which is a shame - all of us should be allowed to sit around and watch cartoons. But I digress.

First of all, let's get the gameplay out of the way. I was expecting a car crash of a game. I've played far too many tie-in games to expect any better, but Monkey Bar Games have actually created something that's quite challenging. After I'd destroyed the first wave of robotic enemies (because if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles taught us anything, it was that you can be as violent as you like to the bad guys, as long as they're made of cogs and gears) and taken on the first boss, I was a little underwhelmed. Then I went on to the next level, and found the enemies just that little bit more challenging. I couldn't just run in, fists flying, hoping to fall into combos like a drunk with a gamepad. I was having to think about my next move. I found myself (shock horror) using the block and dodge button! As the game progressed, I even found myself switching between Ben 10's assortment of Aliens based on their combat moves. This isn't a game you can just busk along to.

Each of your 13 aliens can be upgraded as you collect power ups within the levels you fight your way through, and you'll find yourself favouring some of them for fighting, and others for puzzle solving. There are quite a few environmental puzzles you have to get past to proceed through the levels, so it's not just an endless conveyor belt of rent-a-goons that need despatching, and each puzzle will usually have a corresponding alien that you can use to solve it. It's almost impossible to get stuck, as there's usually a prompt from your partner as to which alien you should morph into. While I found this sucked away some of the challenge, this is a kids game so I should probably get over myself.

PhotobucketThe graphics aren't half bad, with the series' signature animation style rendered quite effectively, and with level and enemy designs also staying true to the cartoon. One major gripe would be the game controlled camera angle - you'll often find yourself fighting enemies whilst hidden behind an inconviently placed bit of scenery or foreground, leaving you with no option but to button mash until the fight music stops, and you can get on to the next part of the game. The controls can be a bit unreliable as well, and some are downright counter-intuitive. For some reason I just couldn’t get used to the block function, or the roll. Maybe I'm getting old.

It's also clear that the developers were aware that a lot of parents were no doubt going to get roped into playing along with their kids, as some of the dialogue is littered with pop culture references that will fly over the heads of most children (unless, like me, their parents let them watch Robocop when they were 7…).

All in all, Ben 10 Omniverse is a pretty decent game for kids. It doesn't condescend to them, and by god it makes them work their way through the levels. I wouldn't recommend buying it to anyone who isn't into the series, but with Christmas just around the corner it's a pretty decent stocking filler for anyone who has, or has friends who have, kids that enjoy video games.