Kids like video games. I know, stop the presses. Kids especially love games that tie into their favorite brands, shows and other items that already exist. Sometimes they’re fantastic combinations, like Bart Simpson vs. The World, one of the greatest NES titles ever made. And sometimes it’s McKids, the worst NES title ever made (subjectively). But, as long as the industry sees children as viable sources of profit, they’ll keep making games that target them, regardless of quality or relatability.
Ben 10 is such a title. Now, before anyone starts to raise their pitchforks, please understand that I barely know what Ben 10 is. I’ve heard the name and seen pictures of the characters somewhere, and that’s seriously about it. I guess the boy’s name is Ben, and he can do stuff, but I don’t understand where the 10 comes in. Is it because of the number of aliens he can summon or whatever? Regardless, I had a little bit of a problem with Ben 10 because, despite playing the game, my knowledge of the show, the characters and even the basic concept is still pretty murky.
Looking at it purely from a gaming perspective, Ben 10 on the Nintendo Switch is a beat-em-up that is in 2.5D, allowing you to sometimes change the depth of field and the perspective of the game but never giving you full reign of the camera, preventing it from going full 3D. Ben runs, punches and slams enemies everywhere he goes, but, as you can imagine, a ten year old boy (oh, is that it?) cannot throw punches hard enough to deal with most robotic bad guys. Instead, Ben has the ability to transform into any number of aliens that he apparently has imprinted on his sci-fi bracelet. Ben can change at will, and each alien has its own abilities and special uses. There’s a little dude that can unlock doors. The four-armed beast can rip open gates. And an icy guy can make ice platforms. Oh, and all of them can hit significantly harder, and eventually do some cool moves.
I actually really enjoyed the combat of Ben 10. There’s nothing particularly fluid about it, but it caters well to it’s primary audience, which is one that wants to put themselves in Ben’s shoes with as much pandering as possible. So the enemies, while hostile, can usually be dispatched quite easily. Before they strike, a giant X will appear above their heads and, if you hit X before they hit you, you can launch a counterattack. As a result, Ben really gets into a groove that racks up ridiculous combos, and the biggest threat to your 50 hit streak is the clown in the corner with limitless, range less throwing hamburgers. But this is where the alien changeup really helps. Several of the aliens have ranged attacks as well, and being able to toggle, throw a ball of fire, then turn into a weird armadillo-like beast and run everyone over was pretty sweet.
The game also does a great job of making itself as replayable as possible. You find things right away at the beginning that you can’t access until you have the appropriate alien unlocked, and you can’t unlock said alien till you play to a part of the game where Ben remembers he can do that. Icy guy? You see patches for him to create almost immediately, but you don’t unlock him until significantly later, tantalizing you to go back in time and try that level again. Along the way, you also get special energy credits from hitting…everything. Breaking boxes, punching vans, destroying lawn furniture, it all gives you energy, and those energy credits can power up each alien three times, unlocking better and stronger abilities in the process. I recommend saving up the energy to dump everything into your favorite alien, and then wreaking absolute havoc on the world until you can fully charge another.
Hidden collectibles also exist in the form of Sumo Cards, and each level will have three that you need to try and find. And, surprise, some cannot be obtained until you’ve unlocked the appropriate aliens. It’s kind of nice for a game to have such a dedication to getting the most play out of itself without asking the player to get a DLC pack or otherwise sacrificing additional money: kids are gonna want to play the hell out of this anyways, so might as well give them what they want. Additionally, you can develop an affinity to certain aliens and want to try to see if you can power through the entire game with minimum switching. There’s not really a prize that I can see, but there is a sense of accomplishment. Then again, in the same swing, it’s hard to justify times when I was just Ben, because, frankly, he sucks at fighting, and the game creates situations where you have no choice, but it doesn’t mean I liked it.
I’d say one of the great fallacies of the game is that this won’t be experienced in any degree by someone who’s not interested in Ben 10. Far from other cartoon based titles (such as Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!), Ben 10 is so simple it doesn’t really give you any intrigue or interest. Even starting up the game assumes you’re already familiar with everyone and everything. Ben can turn into aliens, so what? He hangs out with his sister and uncle in a trailer in the woods, big deal! A zombie clown has ruined everyone’s day, par for the course! I know you can only do an origin story so many times, but this is the first Ben 10 title on the Nintendo Switch. If you haven’t watched several hours of the show, you’re not going to give a damn about the game or who’s in it, and that’s a shame, because there’s some decent action and voice acting here. Every alien is a totally different person (not just a suit Ben wears) and quip and comment in totally different ways (though all wit the same number of puns). It’s a bit of an experience, and I was glad to take it.
As far as cartoon based games go, Ben 10 seems to be relatively good quality. The animation style is a bit more cell-shaded than the show, but it works well in the cinematic factor for the gameplay. It’s not too easy but it’s definitely meant to remind you how powerful Ben is in comparison to the bad guys, just as a Saturday morning show should be. I’ve just been informed cartoons aren’t on Saturday anymore and I’m a dinosaur. The point is, it’s actually a pretty decent brawler who’s biggest fault is that it’s only for fans of the show. If you’re just gonna grab something so you can punch people, you can get several NEO GEO titles in lieu of dropping for this one. But if you simply need to continue your Ben 10 style, then by all means, grab this Cartoon Network joint and enjoy.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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