Far short of the G-spot.
Gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs are the butt of many jokes and frequently get the raw end of the deal in popular culture. They’re the playthings of scientists, sadistic children, and curious adults. In G-Force, a group of highly trained super-spy guinea pigs show that they’re tired of being made asses of, and take charge by infiltrating the back doors of evil corporate facilities, tearing them down from the inside out.
[image1]Based on the upcoming film of the same name, G-Force follows the adventures of Darwin—the G-Force team leader—as he creeps and crawls and blasts his way through more dark passageways and dangerous ventilation systems than Katie Couric’s colonoscope in an attempt to take down a sinister home appliance manufacturer hell-bent on world domination. Three parts Ratchet and Clank and one part Splinter Cell, G-Force combines platforming and shooting mechanics with computer hacking and simplistic stealth gameplay.
G-Force gets the basics right. Platforming and shooting are both solid, and you encounter enough varied enemies and weapons to keep things moderately interesting through the game’s 6-8 hour length. The espionage gameplay is less compelling, usually involving little more than holding down an action button to “hack” a console. Occasionally, you’ll put to use some other devices like infrared goggles, but otherwise it’s all leaping, lopping, and lasering.
To progress through G-Force, you must solve many puzzles that involve disabling or reconnecting power to open doors or destroy shield generators. You’ll also have to put your housefly companion Mooch to use in order to circumvent barriers, often using his ability to slow time. While Mooch’s Neo-like ability might sound promising, it’s mostly just a fancy way to get through fast-moving fan blades, granting you access to places that Darwin couldn’t otherwise get to.
[image2]The puzzles get bigger and more intricate as the adventure progresses, but they always adhere to the same basic principle: unlock one door to unlock another to unlock another to enter a new area… rinse, repeat. Some of the more elaborate puzzles are fun the first time, but the same ideas are hammered senselessly into your head over and over again. It also doesn’t help that every level looks the same as every other level. Even when you supposedly change locations, you’ll still travel through the same gray corporate facilities full of the same building materials and the same puzzles.
Luckily, the enemy designs keep things interesting. Appliances have run amok, transformed into little robots. Irons, toasters, razors, computer mice, and countless other doodads and thingamajigs all have it in for you. Each new area comes with its own new handful of enemy types, each with its own unique robot form. As in the Metroid Prime series, you scan your enemies to learn their weaknesses, and G-Force does a good job of continually introducing new enemy concepts and strategies.
G-Force also reintroduces an old game concept: 3D. The return of 3D in feature films is now bleeding back into the gaming market. The difference is that 3D films use cutting-edge 3D polarization technologies, while G-Force uses the same blue-red anaglyph technology first introduced in the 1950s. Its age shows. When you put on the glasses and switch the game into 3D mode, you lose image color and frequently see doubled and tripled images. When movies were in black and white and when games still used basic vector images, that technology made sense. But with a wider available color range and texture details in modern games, the technology doesn’t work well.
Sure, you’ll get some nice 3D effects here and there, but at the cost of image quality. Worse, it also makes aiming difficult since your reticule is not at the same depth as the enemies, so you can’t line up your shots with any real precision. However, take away the glasses and turn off the 3D mode, and you’re left with an incredibly plain-looking game with virtually no texture detail to speak of. It suffers severely from multiplatform-itis—likely using the Wii as its lowest common denominator—making the other versions look horribly bland and last-gen.
[image3]To its credit, the voice acting and music are both top-notch, adding much-needed character and depth to an otherwise mediocre experience. Unfortunately, as with many movie tie-in titles, it’s almost impossible to follow the plot without first watching the movie. The broad strokes are obvious, but the supporting cast and many of the story details are left to the film to fill out.
The game also has only one relatively brief mode of play. After you’ve completed the single-player campaign, all that’s left to do is play on higher difficulty levels. If the game weren’t so same-y, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Unless you’re the type who wishes that all sunsets were a single shade of gray or that all rainbows were just one dull color, you’ll probably find the levels in G-Force maddeningly repetitive.
With so many atrocious examples of terrible game adaptations of movie blockbusters, it’s refreshing to see a competent one. The game mechanics, voice acting, and enemy designs are all wonderfully polished. But if people could live on polish alone, there’d be gourmet restaurants serving linoleum and fingernails. A game should first and foremost be enjoyable. G-Force’s downfall is in its repetitive puzzle design, bland visuals, and antiquated 3D technology. Like guinea pigs themselves, G-Force may not be much fun, but that won’t keep away the kids and, um, probing adults.