Less than a month ago, the question on everybody's lips was Christmas presents. When it comes to your average youngster, there's plenty to chose from. Maybe a book for a keen reader, a make up set for the girly girl or a brand new bike for the kid that can't sit still? But for those interested in games who are a little too young for GTA V, it can be a bit of a gauntlet to run - and while our expertly put together Christmas lists hopefully proved helpful, you may still have been tempted to plump for the latest film or TV tie-in. Ben 10: Omniverse 2 is one such tie-in that hopes to tempt fans of the TV series in - the problem is, it's all over in a flash.
Written by the writers of the popular Cartoon Network TV show, we're assured there is a story tying Ben 10 Omniverse 2 together, but in all honesty, you'd be hard pushed to find it. Beyond a short cutscene at the start and end of each level that usually involves beating someone up, there's little else that even attempts at telling a story - at least, for those of us not as clued up on the TV show as we should be. Essentially revolving around Ben Tennyson, a teenager that can transform in a myriad of creatures, and his little alien friend Azmuth, who need to save planet Earth from the frog-like Incurseans who've enslaved humanity, as, following the events of the last game, they assumed Ben was dead, the tale is pretty much irrelevant to the action anyway. What may be of interest to fans of the series is that the game marks the video game debuts of two of Ben's alien forms - Bullfrag, a newbie and the result of feeding the Omnitrix some newly acquired Incursean DNA and Astrodactyl, the freaky glider/dinosaur hybrid.
But sadly, while minimal effort seems to have been put into the storyline, the same can be said for the rest of the game, too. While the first Omniverse was a co-op platformer in the vein of the LEGO games (and therefore, at least fun in short bursts), Omniverse 2 instead takes the series on a hugely different, and much more low budget path. Essentially turning the game into an infinite runner, in the vein of mobile smash Temple Run, you actually have very little control over your character - all you have to do is choose which "path" they should be running down (either at the left, right, or in the middle of the screen), and jump at the right time. Along the way, you'll come across various obstacles which require Ben's alien special abilities to get past - all you have to do is press the right button on the controller in time to switch to the right transformation. After a time running along identical looking corridors, you'll come to a room filled with aliens (the toad-like Incurseans if you're interested) spoiling for a fight - clear out all the bad guys and it's back on the road again, running to the next room.
Sometimes you'll come to branching part of the corridor, and depending on which lane you find yourself in, you'll end up going a different way. Above such intersections are symbols giving you an idea of what's that way - red crosses lead to trouble, while green circles show the "proper" path through the levels, and pink question marks denote secret areas, where you can find collectables and such. Occasionally, you might stumble across a lane with a very hard to make out picture of one of your aliens on - switching to the right guy at the right time will let you open the locked doors, usually to a super secret area with a pick-up that levels up that particular character, netting them new moves.
All of Ben's alien transformations are divided up into one of three classes, each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses. Characters such as Four Arms fall under 'heavy', moving slower and being able to smash their way through certain breakable walls and objects in their path, whilst aliens like Crashhopper are the exact opposite - speedy, light on their feet and capable of jumping over gaps in the floor. Medium characters like Bloxx tend to fall between the two in terms of power and speed, and also have the ability to chuck projectiles during the running sections - we found these characters to be the best 'all round' ones for both brawling and running, although of course you will need to mix it up a bit in the latter to survive.
The only problem is, it's all very dull. If it were a £5 downloadable game, you could almost excuse it, but when you're running around levels that mostly look the same, work the same, and involve very little effort on your part, it can all get rather boring rather quickly. It doesn't help that your deaths put you right back to the very beginning of the level, in a poor attempt to artificially inflate the game's length. Despite having been told at several times through the level that you've unlocked a shortcut, after finishing certain rooms, you have no idea how to access or use these shortcuts when you die, forcing you to trudge through the rest of the level all over again.
But perhaps the biggest issue here is the game's length. After completing the tutorial and the first level, we were already 20% complete according to our save data, and our time taken was a whopping 16 minutes - making the time to completion a paltry 1 hour and 20 minutes, perhaps a touch longer were you to backtrack for collectables and the like. For the sake of longevity, there is also a two player co-operative arena mode where you and a friend can take on wave upon wave of identikit Incusians, each one stronger than the last - although much like the main game, the real enemy you'll be fighting is the urge to fall asleep.
Much like the more recent entries in the series, Ben 10 Omniverse 2 is undoubtedly a cash-in - the only difference is, it's really not all that great. It's dull, short, and not worth the entry fee. Had it been a budget-priced downloadable game it may have had some merit for the hardcore fans, but as it stands, it's sadly probably best avoided. If you're after a Ben 10 game, you're better off going back to the older games such as the surprisingly solid Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction, a fairly standard platform/adventure game that's a damn sight more entertaining than the disappointment that is Omniverse 2.
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360