I was recently accused of being a sucker for family games by a fellow colleague of mine. Maybe it’s true, perhaps I have slowly become addicted to simplistic plot lines and straightforward gameplay, but the truth of the matter is, this genre has become increasingly more refined than the traditional game-to-movie cash-in. Disney’s latest CGI affair G-Force arrives with players controlling the confident protagonist Darwin. It is your atypical scenario where some talking animals are on a mission to save the world, and everyone in it. The plot line is not going to draw you in, but the clever and entertaining dialogue and surprisingly solid gunplay make this yet another tie-in movie that escapes the brand of mediocrity.
The story takes bits and pieces from the movies and strings them together assuming you have already seen it. That is easily one of the biggest flaws I found while playing through the game. I have not seen the movie, in fact I rarely go to the theater anymore, and this game really wanted me to, to fully appreciate what was going on. You are playing as Darwin, a guinea pig that uses spy gadgets and guns to take down maniacal toasters. The problem is that there are too many holes in the story. Who do you work for, why are we fighting to stop these evil appliances and better yet, why should you care. The plot may not be explained using the game, but the voice acting and cut scenes are well done, so if you have seen the movie you will likely enjoy how it is delivered.
G-Force is primarily a third-person shooter that takes all of the foundations of the genre and puts them to work splendidly. You tug the left trigger to go into aiming mode while firing with the right. Aiming feels smooth and accurate, and the array of weapons is both interesting and effective. While there is a nice selection of weapons you will likely stick mostly to your default gun and your electric whip. This is mostly due to the fact that ammo is not unlimited, and once you upgrade the whip, it can be one of the more powerful and effective ways to dispose of enemies.
You can upgrade your weapons, refill your health and ammo, and even purchase maps of all the areas and hidden locations are various vending machines scattered around the level. G-Force is not your typical family game where infinite lives and respawning health are commonplace. Instead the game offers three difficulty levels with each one giving you less lives per level. It is also worth noting that the game is substantially longer than most of its type. There is an Achievement/Trophy for completing the game in less than eight hours, which should tell you that the average play through will take just over that.
In addition to just shooting and whipping through each level Darwin can also call on his flying sidekick for assistance. The idea works well in theory, and each time you get stuck on where to go next you quickly become adept to searching the area for heating ducts to send your buzzing friend through. He can slow down time and shoot a laser that disables some enemies and opens various doors. There is also a break in the action in the form of a chase sequence that takes place within the hamster ball of doom, as I like to call it. This vehicle segment breaks up the monotony of the shooting levels, even if for only a brief moment.
This is where G-Force’s biggest flaw comes into play; level design. The game is long, we have already established that, but each level enforces that by dragging on and on without remorse. There were times where I just wanted to make it to the next save point so I could take a break from the monotony. There are only five actual levels, but they are broken up into tons of smaller ones that each last much longer than they should. It also doesn’t help that each one feels like just another maze of boxes and vents that you have already seen. If G-Force suffers in one area this is it, the pacing and boring levels really drag down an otherwise incredible experience.
This begs the question of who the game is actually aimed at. Veteran gamers such as myself will appreciate all the nuances that make this game actually enjoyable. At the same time younger gamers interested only in playing as their favorite characters from the movie could be turned off by the seemingly long levels and complexity. G-Force straddles a dangerous line between being fun for the whole family, and being a good rental for hardcore gamers. If you are on the fence I highly recommend checking out the game, because if you can handle the complexity (for younger gamers) and you can overlook the settings and scenarios (for veteran gamers), this could be the first game to successfully find a balance between the two.
Visually the game is crisp delivering decent character models at a solid frame rate. The animations look good, and the levels, while bland in design, are colorful and nicely detailed. The developers have also thrown in a couple pair of 3D glasses to take advantage of the feature in the game. I sat down with another editor and played through a couple levels in this mode and while novel, it can begin to give you a headache in extended sessions. I really loved the way your fly sidekick seemed to come out of the TV, almost to the point where I wanted to reach for a flyswatter, but I do not recommend playing the entire game this way. Sound is top-notch with great voice acting and some great music to coincide with the action. The dialogue is actually very well done, as with most Disney family films.
G-Force was a shock to me. Rarely do I find myself actually wanting to play a game of this type outside of reviewing it, but I found myself coming back to it over and over to finish it out. The game is not without flaws, but it makes up for them by being one of the first games to ever successfully be recommendable to both young and older gamers alike. Hardcores will enjoy the challenge and solid mechanics, while younger gamers will enjoy the familiar characters and fluid gameplay. G-Force is a great tie-in game, and ranks up there with the likes of Kung-Fu Panda in the school of how to make a solid family title without dumbing it down for the masses.