Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction DS Review

Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction may sound just like a kids’ game– and it is –but it’s still got a bit of fun in store for veterans.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 11/19/2010 17:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Engaging, if slightly basic, gameplay; fan-tastic unlockables
Poison Mushroom for...
Bare-bones presentation; rather short

Though its name may be quite the mouthful to pronounce, Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction goes down easy. Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, apparently a cartoon series (full disclaimer: I was totally unaware of its existence until I reviewed this DS game) revolving around a boy who can transform into ten different alien creatures, actually lends itself perfectly well to the video game medium, and fans of the show– or, in my case, vaguely interested and slightly bemused Ben 10 novices– should find the result highly entertaining.

Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction is at its heart a side-scrolling brawler in the vein of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Double Dragon, down to little flashing arrows that appear whenever a room is cleared of enemies. And like any beat-’em-up, Ben 10 starts off as quickly as it can to get to the fighting. In fact, other than a few mandatory credits screens, Ben 10 boots up straight to the file select screen, where players can get straight to the action with little more than two presses of the A button. Seconds later, players will be faced with a familiar side-scrolling platform setting, instantly recognizable regardless of whether they’re fans of Ben 10 or, like certain alien baddies, consider the eponymous Ben Tennyson their worst enemy. Players have, other than the directional pad, four buttons at their disposal: one button used to attack, both for ranged and melee blows, another used for transformation into different aliens, another used for special attacks, and the last one to jump (and double-jump). Though players can’t change which buttons align to which action, the general setup should be enough for anyone; it’s simplicity at its finest, and even if players press the wrong button, they’ll probably have no trouble beating up baddies.

Firehazard’s the universe’s greatest firefighter, donchaknow.

Even if that sounds complicated, the game introduces even the youngest of players to the mechanics of the game slowly and steadily, with tutorials popping up even as the game approaches its end. Clearly drawing inspiration from the Mega Man series, Cosmic Destruction provides players with an initial five alien transformations, with the remaining five unlocked by playing through additional levels. Each alien transformation, of course, comes with its own unique powers: for instance, the agile Spider Monkey can stick to walls, making perilous cliffs that much easier to scale, whereas the lumbering Humungousaur walks slowly, but packs a punch so strong it can break through (certain) walls. Players will need to use all five of these transformations in traversing the tutorial level, as various puzzles abound; though most puzzles are simple enough, to the point where they’re color-coded by alien transformation, pop-up windows appear on the touch screen every now and then if the game senses players need an additional push. Meanwhile, if veteran players (or simply slightly deviant Ben 10 enthusiasts) feel like they’d appreciate a challenge, they can play as the normal, human Ben Tennyson, whose fisticuffs, oddly enough, deal just as much damage as most other alien transformations, though he understandably takes a chunk more damage than his other forms.

Armadrillo: Understandably not the best alien for cliff-climbing.

Regardless of each player’s individual style, Ben 10 is mostly on the forgiving side. Players start off with a number of lives, though they can also pick up extra lives through collecting thirty yellow orbs or, as usual, depictions of Ben Tennyson’s disembodied head. Unlike most platformers, but like most brawlers, a defeat in Cosmic Destruction merely causes Ben to respawn in the same place, temporarily invincible, with a life deducted from Ben’s total quota. Lose all of Ben’s precious little lives, though and players will be sent back to the stage select screen. (Oddly enough, there’s no game over screen, or a motivational “you can do it, Ben!” screen– the game anticlimactically sends players straight to jail stage select.)

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean an awful lot. Most stages in Cosmic Destruction stretch an extremely short distance, and total defeat usually only indicates an extra five to ten minutes on the level, tops. Sometimes, in fact, I found myself taking advantage of this rather forgiving system, and tried to beat a level using only certain alien transformations that were clearly the most incorrect alien transformations you could possibly use on these levels (the game’s tutorial pop-ups flashed at me angrily all the while). Ben Tennyson, I figured, hadn’t lived until he tried to traverse a cliff-filled level using only the sluggish Armodrillo, whose Ph D. in underground tunneling and impressive skills in leaping half a centimeter in a single bound didn’t do him any good on that particular level.

And though it’s sometimes difficult to escape the idea that Ben Tennyson is essentially a giant walking toolbox, especially when certain aliens only seem to have uses when the odd puzzle shows up requiring their powers, I found myself switching aliens constantly (when I wasn’t being silly), eventually finding a favorite in Echo Echo, a diminutive albino alien who apparently found delight in splitting in multiple clones and smashing enemies across their kneecaps. This leads me to believe that younger players, in all likelihood much bigger Ben 10 fans than I, will quickly find their favorites among Ben’s formidable arsenal. It’s hard to imagine an eight-year-old not having fun romping through stages with their favorite dinosaur-inspired alien. Besides, each alien’s “ultimate” special moves, conjured by double-tapping X when a special bar is full, do the same thing and are presented the same way: an “ultimate” version of the alien being played fills the screen, and all enemies suddenly disappear. Though this disappointed me a bit, it will probably tide over younger kids nicely.

Each alien’s special move initiates a splash screen, then defeats all onscreen enemies.

Unfortunately, though Ben 10 is pretty entertaining in these respects, playing through the game the way Griptonite Games clearly wants you to– that is, constantly switching to just the right alien to breeze through stages in three to five minutes– reveals little more than a cookie-cutter platformer. (Admittedly, Ben 10 remains a cookie-cutter platformer with the equivalent of ten different playable characters.) Meanwhile, most of the locales look essentially the same, with a notable exception being the Eiffel Tower location, whose background bustles with detailed activity. Strikingly, though, the character sprites used are rather spartan in their design, with Ben Tennyson himself little more than a collection of colored squares. Though the gameplay may evoke old memories of Golden Axe, or, perhaps more appropriately, Altered Beast, the graphics remind more of N+ or Eric Chahi’s Another World— which isn’t to say that Cosmic Destruction‘s presentation is a bad thing, per se, especially considering the simplicity of the game itself. It merely presents the idea that Griptonite Games could have spent a little more time polishing them.

For those youngsters who manage to beat Cosmic Destruction with nary a scratch (to be fair, there are some rather devious jumping pieces in the game, though nothing of Mega Man‘s hatred level), various unlockables abound, including cheats and upgrades. Because of the requirements for the secrets, though, ranging from simply beating the game to collecting all the yellow orbs in every level, intrepid Ben Tennyson emulators will be exploring for a while. Yes, Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction is by and large a highly formulaic platform brawler, but Griptonite Games’ incorporation of the Ben 10 mythos– however confusing it may be– translates well to a solid, albeit highly formulaic, platform brawler. It’s a nice taste of a budget, licensed title that’s actually much more decent than anyone might expect.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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