Remember the days when you were a kid and you played a game with your friend or sibling that was completely mindless, but nonetheless fun?
Welcome to Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension isn't a complicated game. It isn't a game where there's intricate level design or specialized control scheme to make it unique from games similar to its style; pure and simple, much like the show, the game wants you to continually have fun through an entertaining storyline that is shockingly well acted.
Now, let's break the game down to specifics.
You start off in Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension getting sucked through a wormhole into another dimension (thus the name). Your quest is to find your friends (and sister), stop Doctor D (and his Norm robots) and get home to save your town from most certain destruction.
Sounds easy enough, right? What's remarkable about this release is that the story is performed quite well by the actual actors from the animated television series. Outside of Perry's lack of talking, you don't have to read anything during the game, rather the entire story is performed like the television movie of the same name. This attention to presentation and retaining of witty humor that comes with the Disney television show makes the experience that much better. I think that Disney Interactive Studios and High Impact Games understood how vital it was to connect the gamers with the characters and make this a nearly flawless bridge from movie to game; generally that's not done too well when it comes to movie/game releases. HIG and DIS did it right, though, and the result is a funny script that you can believe that actors enjoyed. Anyway, if you like how the show is written and performed then you're going to really like what type of story and performance that accompanies this game release.
Added to the great story/acting is the cel-shading environment and character models the reinforce it all. You get very bright and colorful environments that will really get young gamers instantly attached to the gameplay. The game looks like an episode of the show, it acts like an episode of the show and even though it runs in a very restrictive linear fashion, there's still plenty to do as you jump from dimension to dimension. Speaking of dimensions, the creative process was definitely upped for putting together different dimensions for the boys to run through. For example, if you've ever been afraid of lawn gnomes then you're in luck! There's a dimension run by lawn gnomes, so you can either enjoy the lawn gnome destruction (as they are nasty little creatures) or you can choose to run away and ask your kids to play. Regardless, the fact that there is a level that is dedicated to lawn gnomes is creative and fun. You also get another dimension that is completely black and white, with film scratches added. If you've seen Steamboat Mickey (early Disney cartoon) then you understand what to expect from this level. High Impact Games seemed to have fun with bringing the levels to life, and it will pay off in the end when it comes to getting young gamers to visually have fun with this game.
All in all, the level design is extremely creative to view and play within, though it is linear by nature. Don't expect a sandbox to play in, but do understand what audience this was intended for.
In addition to good presentation, you also get a variety of weapons to pick up and upgrade as progress through dimensions. You start off with a baseball launcher, which can be upgraded to fire faster balls, contain more ammo and/or even cause more destruction. There are six main weapons in total and each has its own attributes when it comes to upgrades and usage. For example, you have a weapon that allows your hands to stick to walls, one that fires orange soda (helps in the gelatin levels), one that is anti-gravity and one that holds an electrical charge. For a kids game that is a lot of choices to toggle between.
Included with the weapon upgrades is the ability to change the sounds of the weapons as they fire, and even the color of the weapons. For example, if you wanted your baseball launcher to make the sound of Perry the Platypus when it fires then you can change that. If you want it teal color then you change that as well. As you go through the various dimensions you will run into these upgrades and improvements through the destruction of the environments or enemies. Also, you can also level up each weapon as you use it. The more you use one weapon then the more upgrades become available for it. You also have the ability to upgrade your weapon by obtaining microchips along the way. Those chips work directly with random workbenches scattered throughout the game. It's neat stuff and it kind of makes item collecting in titles like this a lot more interesting, and less tedious.
So what good is a weapon if you have nothing to use it on? Well, you have a variety of enemies that you run into during the game. Some of the enemies are level specific (gelatin monsters and gnomes), while mostly you'll find the enemies to be repetitive Norm robots and smaller easily disposed of tinker toys. If there was anything that got tiring in Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension it was the endless robots. They come through randomly appearing wormholes and are uninspiring. They're easy to destroy and they don't really get above a certain level in difficulty. Kids that have gaming experience already will probably just go through the motions when it comes to taking out these things. They're also very patterned when it comes to attacks, as you'll know how they will attack and how to easily avoid them. Again, it's a bit tedious and very repetitive, and it might insult the gaming intelligence of younger kids playing. If there had been just a bit more variety, even more bosses or mini-bosses to break up the monotony of the robot waves then this would have been a much richer experience when it came to enemies. Not every dimension has a definitive boss at the end, so you're just putting up with mostly these waves of robots during each dimension. I wish there was more variety, but there simply isn't in terms of enemies.
What about the game's longevity? For me this game didn't last over six hours, that's including the mini-games. For a younger gamer the experience might be a lot bigger, namely because they aren't gaming freaks that will stay up until 2am. Geared towards a Club Penguin generation that savors playing the same process over and over again (I've watched by daughter many a times play a card-flipping kung fu mini-game in CP), there is enough here to grab their attention for hours and hours, even if stuff repeats. Outside of the main quest, the mini-games consist of skeeball and claw/item grab game.
The skeeball game is fun, as you collect tickets from successful rolls. The tickets can be used to purchase different upgrades for characters (such as clothing) or upgrades to weapons (sounds), or even characters themselves. The motivation to 'get everything' will keep the skeeball interesting.
The flip-side to that coin is the claw game. This game, while valuable when it comes to obtaining important items, is slow and clunky. The slow process of trying to grab an item in the machine is tedious. It's not so much tedious because the actual grabbing part is tough, rather it's tedious because if you miss something in the machine it still goes through the empty process of trying to drop the item and then reset; there is no way to back out and try again without going through this long process over and over. It's almost discouraging and makes you not want to play the mini-game.
In the end, the main game and all the elements it brings makes it better than a standard movie-license game. High Impact Games put effort into this title and you can see that. It's not just another movie-license game that is depending solely on the name to sell it rather than the content. Does it have flaws? Yes it has flaws, and those show up as well. For younger gamers they will certainly enjoy what Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension has to offer. What's even more valuable to their experience will be the fun co-op they will find when they play with a friend/sibling. As I was playing this game I told my wife that the gameplay reminded me a lot of the old Sega Genesis two-player days where the adventure of playing with a friend was far more important than the technical aspects of the game. That is a strong element of Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension and it should be a great reason why you would want to purchase this for your family; they just don't make two-player experiences like that these days outside of first-person shooters.
For $39.99 you're getting a fun, yet flawed game that will be safe for your kids to play. To boot you also get four full episodes of the show, which is a steal of a deal if you're a parent.