Review: Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension

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Whenever I visit and baby-sit my nieces and nephews, at some point we always end up watching Disney’s hit animated series Phineas and Ferb. But with three (now four as of last month) kids to look after, I’m always sort of half paying attention, so I’ve never really been able to ‘get’ what makes the show so special. Until now!

As a gamer, of course it would take a video game to turn my attention to the Phineas and Ferb craze, and that’s just what Disney Interactive has done with Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, an action platform game from developer High Impact Games, released this week on DS, Wii and PS3 in tandem with a made-for-TV animated movie of the same name airing tonight on the Disney Channel (it’s on right now, so go watch!).

The PS3 version, which Disney was kind enough to send along for our review, actually comes on a hybrid Blu-ray containing the game and four full episodes of the cartoon on the same disc, so in addition to a fun, wholesome game, I’ve finally been able to dedicate my full attention to seeing what kind of wacky shenanigans ensue when the two inventive stepbrothers and their friends get together. The animation looks amazing in 1080p—the colors are so vivid and crisp–and the humor, pacing and spontaneity of the writing is spot on. This is a show parents can get just as many laughs out of as children. It is basically a family-friendly Family Guy.

In much the same way, Phineas and Ferb as a video game is an experience parents and kids can enjoy together in equal amounts. In fact, with local drop-in / drop-out support, this game is meant to be played cooperatively by siblings or parent and child. But don’t worry if you’re a solo gamer – you can play and have just as much fun by yourself.

Coming from High Impact Games, an offshoot studio of Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog responsible for recent Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter games on PS2 and PSP, it should come as no great surprise that Phineas and Ferb’s adventure borrows the same approach to platform gameplay as Sony’s two mascot duos. And given the style of the show, the design choices make perfect sense.

As Phineas and Ferb, or any combination of the eight other unlockable characters from the show, you embark on a dimension-hopping quest to stop Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s latest scheme of pure evil. Along the way, you shoot at enemies with baseball launchers, carbonated orange soda sprayers and ninja gloves that squirt out sticky, green goo; you hop between moving platforms; you use an anti-gravity ray to solve laser redirection switch puzzles; you ride on jetpacks in on-rails shootouts; and you gather blueprint components to build various devices that help clear obstacles standing between you and the end of each level.

While you’re blasting through robots, jelly monsters and angry garden gnomes, your gadgets level up, and all enemies and objects explode into a shower of electronic components needed as a currency to purchase upgrade chips. As weapons grow in power through use, you can upgrade their damage, fire rate, ammo capacity and recharge rate. Graphics and sound mods are also available, should you want your weapons to fire different colors and/or sound like barking dogs or 8-bit bleeps and bloops when discharged.

With the same distinct art style and all the main voice actors from the TV show, Across the 2nd Dimension looks and sounds exactly like an episode from the cartoon, complete with catchy theme songs, familiar running gags, and loads of laughs. The 25 levels take you on a visually grand tour of dimensions filled with bright pools and blocks of gelatin, colorful balloons, and black and white surroundings straight out of Steamboat Willie.

The game won’t take you but a few hours to complete, but unlockable characters, costumes and collectible figurines are sure to keep fans of the show consistently coming back. The only downside to unlocking this content is the mini-game tedium you are first forced to endure. In between levels, you can use gold coins you’ve collected (there are five hidden in each stage) to play skee ball or prize grabber, and for your participation you earn prize tickets. You can then redeem tickets to unlock the aforementioned goodies.

The problem is that playing the same two arcade games over and over becomes incredibly boring, especially when the top prizes cost hundreds of tickets and you’re lucky to win more than 70-80 tickets per round. I wish there were either more mini-games for added variety or some type of automated prize machine system that allowed you to quickly exchange coins for random prizes.

Something else I was disappointed by was the PlayStation Move implementation. The PS3 version does support an optional Move control scheme, but it offers no advantage over a DualShock. Whether you’re using the Move or a DualShock, shaking the controller serves as an emergency melee attack, and, well, that’s the only motion control element in the entire game. The glowing orb on the Move wand does change colors in relation to your chosen gadget, which is kind of neat, and you can swing the controller to make tosses in skee ball. But in terms of actual control, the Move serves absolutely no purpose here, and that’s a real shame.

No one part of Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is special in any way, and the overall level of difficulty is very easy (perhaps too much so for some adults, but appropriately so for youngsters). But the game is extremely well conceptualized and competently designed, and it plays accessibly and provides hours of cartoony action that will simultaneously mesmerize the kiddies and appeal to easygoing, grown-up gamers. You will be thoroughly entertained, and that’s all that ultimately matters for a game like this.

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Pros:
+ Authentically captures looks, sound and personality of the cartoon
+ Accessible action-platformer fun for the whole family
+ Good family co-op experience
+ Lots of unlockable goodies and gadgets
+ PS3 version comes with four bonus TV episodes on the same Blu-ray

Cons:
– Mini-games make unlocking prizes too tedious
– Poor PlayStation Move support
– May be a little too easy for adult gamers

Affiliate Links:
Buy from Amazon or eStarland

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available for DS and Wii
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: High Impact Games
Release Date: 8/2/2011
Genre: Action/Platform
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2 (local only)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!