Many licensed video games that release in the summer are based on big budget blockbusters complete with over-the-top action sequences, fully voiced dialogue and epic set pieces that strive to blur the line between movie and game. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is not such a game. Based on a made-for-TV Disney movie of the same name, the game doesn't share the same blockbuster flair driving recent PS3 movie tie-ins like Captain America. But what the title lacks in action and sizzle it strives to make up for in charm and accessibility.
The game world is bright and colourful, and the cel-shaded graphics work so well that you may forget that you're not watching a cartoon. The game just looks great, and the dimension-hopping premise lends itself nicely to the game's art style. Many developers struggle to bring 2D animation successfully into a 3D game world, but this title knocks it out of the park.
Taking on the role of either Phineas or Ferb (or other characters once you unlock them), players have the option to go it alone or team up with another player from the start. Gameplay consists of shooting everything in sight, and piecing together different contraptions in order to progress through the game. This really just boils down to shooting everything in sight though. Enemies will appear from portals, and taking them out is as easy as spamming the shoot button. After they are gone you can pick up the pieces you need, and once you've collected all the pieces (usually three) you return to a “blueprint” to build your contraption and move on.
The game is a little too easy at times, and the gun you begin with, the baseball shooter, is powerful enough to dispatch most foes effortlessly from the get-go. It only gets more powerful as you play, and the various other guns you unlock make it even easier. For families, this could be a great annoyance-free title for all to enjoy, but the lack of challenge will certainly turn some players off.
The variety of weaponry to be had is quite cool though, and you' ll be firing off things like orange soda sprayers and even an electrical shotgun. The game has a big Ratchet and Clank vibe going, and weaponry automatically levels up as you use it. Each time a weapon levels up you get to improve things like capacity and power, but again, the game strives so much to be easy that you'll likely never not be able to max out your newly leveled-up gun.
The gravity gun you acquire early on is probably the most versatile weapon, as you'll use it not just in battle but to solve simple puzzles as well. You can use it to drop stuff on switches, move around blocks or bypass lasers by redirecting their refraction. You can also use it to simply pick up enemies and fling them around. Sadly though, you do not point the Move controller to control an on-screen reticule: instead, your character just fires in the direction you are facing, which brings us to the lackluster Move support.
The only thing the Move's motion sensor is used for in game is to issue a melee attack, done by shaking the controller. Other than that it is not used at all in the main game. Between levels however you can try your hand at two minigames, which score you points that can be used to unlock new characters and Phineas and Ferb collectables. One of the games is a replication of those claw-grabbing machines, where you position a mechanical hand and have it descend into a pile of goodies below. The other is a skee-ball simulator which does make use of the Move controller, allowing you pitch a ball up a ramp at different speeds depending on the strength of your swing.
Aside form the minigames there are a good amount of variety in the levels. Some, like a floating balloon world, focus more on platforming, while others focus on puzzles or combat. Also, you are treated to the occasional boss fight, which are generally a lot of fun and could have added a lot to the game if they were more frequent. Most interesting are the on-rails shooter levels, which give players control over their character in third-person as they fly around on jetpacks and mindlessly blast everything in sight. These instances are few and far between, but are a welcome addition to the game that do a good job of breaking up the action.
The game is rather short however, and will likely be beaten after a few sittings. You can always revisit levels to try and bolster your score, but once again the low level of difficulty makes this endeavor feel a bit hallow. Still, if you want to continue your Phineas and Ferb experience, you can always watch the episodes packed-in to the Blu-ray disc.
All in all, Phineas and Ferb feels like staying home for a movie rather than heading out to the cinema. You won't be treated to anything spectacular, and you may have seen it all before, but it still offers you an enjoyable experience to share with a friend on your couch. It is also a lot cheaper. Unlike the new Captain America PS3 title, which clocks in at 60 bucks, Phineas and Ferb can be picked up for $40, giving you just enough cash left over to buy a pair of movie tickets.