"Everything's Better with a Platypus"
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is a platform-heavy game released around the time as the similarly named made-for-TV movie. If you are only interested in playing this game for the story, it is best to familiarize yourself with the source material first, as the way it is presented here is skeletal. Interestingly enough for a license-based game, Dimension does not faithfully replicate the film's tale. Instead, the developers took only the most basic elements of the narrative – dimension-traversing and contraption-inventing – and focused on adding variety to the genre's conventional gameplay.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension starts out predictably enough. As is the case with any platformer, you can expect jumping and collecting. Lots of collecting. Every level features a small variety of objects and enemies that, when destroyed, yield random trinkets to accumulate. The “inventing” portion amounts to nothing more than searching for a few specific items scattered aimlessly. Additionally, each level includes large, hidden coins that allow you to play a pair of mini-games to unlock secret playable characters and costumes. To compound that tedium is the single-note combat.
- The show's signature elements are well represented -
While there are a few different grunt-type enemies to fight in Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, absolutely no strategy is required to defeat them. As each weapon's ammunition is endless, there is no reason to not button-mash your way through each level. It's also exceedingly difficult to die. Falling off of platforms instantly transports you to where you fell and running out of health has little consequence. (Amusingly, the characters attribute these gameplay mechanics to their inventions.)
This may all sound very negative and, make no mistake, the bulk of Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is comprised of platform-hopping, object-collecting and plain, repetitive combat, but the developers did a great job of mixing things up to keep the game entertaining. Whenever I found myself thinking that certain sections had gone on for far too long (e.g. being constrained to a moving platform and battling wave after wave of the same enemy type), entirely new mechanics would be introduced.
For example, when the characters don their jetpacks and take to the skies, you're thrust into a refreshingly straightforward on-rails shooter. When the characters need to hack certain equipment, you're transported into a protect-the-base mini-game. And while undemanding, the assorted puzzles require you to use each of your different gadgets and weapons evenly. Nowhere is this gameplay diversity more apparent than in the boss battles. Unlike the repetitive combat mechanics strewn about each level, no boss fight plays out the same way in Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension. As methods of victory are unique to each boss, you can find yourself pulling levers and spraying a carbonated beverage to defeat one while utilizing a motion-controlled giant robot to fell another.
Multiplayer consists of two players controlling their characters on the same screen throughout the campaign (the second character is computer-controlled otherwise). The developers added a nice touch at the end of every stage where they provide a tally of how many coins and trinkets each player collected and how many enemies they defeated. This basic competitive aspect does well to keep the repeated fighting and item-gathering from becoming too monotonous. The shear variety of gameplay on display here is surprising.
- Simple platforming and combat, but variety keeps it balanced -
The developers also deserve credit for presentation. While, the graphics are so simple that a jaded gamer would probably stick their nose up at the plain models and textures and stilted character animations, they are an ideal fit for this game. Most of the dimensions featured here aren't even touched upon in the movie, but the charming settings will inherently keep the younger gamers attracted to the television. The essence of the show and film is loyally represented here and fans shouldn't have much to complain about in that regard.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension's whimsical atmosphere is further enhanced thanks to some solid sound work. While each level's background music is serviceable, but ultimately forgettable, the introductory cut-scene, opening menus, and ending exhibit the series' signature catchy, spontaneous songs. And thanks to the show's cast reprising their roles here, the voice-work is spot-on. The quirkiness of the characters shines through and the resulting humor helps keep things at least mildly interesting for both younger and older players.
Regardless of extensive gaming experience, thanks to the significant amount of handholding that Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension provides, anyone can breeze through the meat of the game, collectibles and all, in about three hours. It is a brief and easy distraction, but the developers' respect for the property ensures that it is an undoubtedly entertaining one at that.
GameDynamo's Score for Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (PS3)
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