Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension
As referenced in the title sequence of their popular cartoon, Phineas and Ferb are brothers with one simple mission: make the most of their summer vacation. To that end, the pair routinely find themselves involved in bizarre, frequently hilarious schemes. Across the 2nd Dimension is the duo’s first expedition on the PlayStation 3, following the characters through a half-dozen dimensions – all of which are curiously 3D.
For those unversed in the cartoon, the brothers hatch elaborate schemes at the drop of a hat and for any reason, no matter how small. Candace, their older sister, tries her best to reveal the brothers’ elaborate plans to their mother, in the hope she can finally bust them – though, it’s worth noting, their schemes are never malicious. The whole premise has a distinct Dexter’s Laboratory vibe, but Phineas and Ferb is much more manic and random, injected with regular musical numbers and a welcome dose of slapstick. Oh, and lastly, Ferb’s pet platypus, Perry, is a secret government agent who is eternally embattled with the bumbling Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Perry’s alternate life is unbeknownst to anyone around him – another Dexter parallel, referencing Monkey.
As wild and crazy as the cartoon is, it’s disappointing that Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension is primarily a clone of Traveler’s Tales’ venerable, arguably stale LEGO franchise. As one of eight unlockable characters, players run around, aimlessly shooting waves of enemies. The weapons themselves are a combination of wacky devices including the Baseball Launcher and the Carbonator, which is effectively a flamethrower that belches orange soda. Despite the funny weapon designs, there’s little functional reason to use all the weapons, since the Baseball Launcher has the best speed, range and you’d have to try extremely hard to run out of ammunition.
On the BluRay, Across the 2nd Dimension boasts four delightful episodes of the Disney cartoon. They can be viewed directly from the Video tab in the Cross Media Bar.
The other series Across the 2nd Dimension mimics is Ratchet & Clank, from the zany weaponry that levels up through repeated use to the overall feel and aesthetic of the game. In between fits of combat, players can use gathered microchips to upgrade their weapons, improving their stats and outfitting them with silly sound effects. While the system provides some incentive to pick a weapon and max it out, unlike the Ratchet titles, there’s little discernable difference from a level one Baseball Launcher and a maxed-out, level four Launcher.
Other than shooting and weapon maintenance, Across the 2nd Dimension boasts a fair amount of rudimentary platforming and puzzle solving. In many levels, blueprints are found, requiring players to collect several seemingly ordinary components, which will later be combined to create a device necessary to progress. Unfortunately, assembling the inventions is completely automated and it seems like a perfect place to implement the game’s Move controls. Yes, a gesture based assembly mini game might be a bit excessive, but it would be a welcome addition based on the game’s target demographic. Plus, it’d be an opportunity to see how these wild machines are actually slung together, something us adults could even appreciate.
As for platforming, Across the 2nd Dimension’s silly locales go a long way to make the traversal more engaging. The more memorable dimensions include a land composed primarily of balloons and an ‘Old Timey’ world, which obviously harkens back to Disney’s own Steamboat Willie. Generally, the controls are adequate enough for most of the relatively tricky segments scattered throughout, but there are a handful of moments the loose controls and weird collision detection will get the best of you. Fortunately, the game doesn’t penalize players for missed jumps too drastically, removing a small portion of HP and incurring a quick respawn. The concession is clearly an effort to keep the game accessible for children, though, it also seems to be an easy way of balancing out the small control issues.
Despite the imagination crammed into the locations and weaponry, Across the 2nd Dimension never really matches the weird fun of its cartoon origins. While the inter dimensional travel motif is a perfect excuse to create wacky scenery and events, the actual moment-to-moment gameplay of walk, shoot some stuff, solve a puzzle, well outstays its welcome. Kids may be happy to blast away at gnomes, robots and other cuddly enemy creatures, but as a new fan of the cartoon, I would have preferred to see more thought crammed into the basic gameplay itself.
Across the 2nd Dimension can easily be summed up by the mini games – including ski ball and a crane game – that bookend every stage: pleasant, but monotonous. With such a great license it’s a shame Phineas and Ferb are constricted to an exhausted formula. On the one hand, the format works, making the game immediately understandable to LEGO vets, but, the honest truth is many of those same LEGO titles did it better.