First of all, I must confess to not being familiar with the Phineas and Ferb phenomenon. Whilst with some children’s entertainment I can quite happily hold my own (SpongeBob is a firm favorite and I know far more about iCarly than any human over the age of nine should), but Phineas and Ferb are quite a mystery to me.
From what I can make out, it seems that the show revolves around the two step-brothers from the title as they spend their summer holiday concocting outlandish schemes whilst their big sister tries to catch them in the act and get them in trouble with their mother. They also have a pet platypus who is actually a secret agent that spends his time trying to foil the evil plans of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. In the grand scheme of things, it all makes about as much sense as one would expect for a kid’s animated TV show. But the kids like it, which is all that matters.
And that is just as well, as Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension follows the nonsensical formula of the show and has a story based upon the recent movie of the same name, in which the heroes travel across parallel dimensions and face off against a slightly more successful Dr. Doofenshmirtz than that of the TV show. There are 24 levels to work through, spread across a variety of different dimensions that each have their own weird and wonderful theme.
The player will begin by controlling either Phineas or Ferb and both characters will be on the screen at the same time. This works really well for the co-op players, with each player taking on one of the characters, although, thanks to an impressive AI, it works equally well in single player. As the game progresses other characters will become available for the players to choose from, each with their own special abilities to offer some variety.
Very much the action platformer, players will find themselves working through each level with some well-timed jumping, ample enemies to dispatch and the odd puzzle to solve for progression. There is also a fair amount of gathering involved in order to complete the blueprints that will allow the boys to construct their latest crazy contraption.
The combat itself works quite well and the players begin the game with a nifty baseball gun. Then, as the game progresses, other weapons will become available that each have their own purpose, such as the gravity gun which is found early on and is required for solving some simple puzzles. The enemies in the game are fairly varied, with each dimension having their own themed baddies alongside the Doofenshmirtz robots that keep popping up and causing problems.
The game also does a good job of keeping things fresh with some varied gameplay styles. Beyond the standard combat, platform jumping and puzzle solving, players will also find themselves in a Space Harrier style jetpack situation, in which they have to shoot oncoming enemies as they zip through the air in third-person perspective, and even a bit of tower defence, where they will find themselves constructing defence turrets to fight off waves of robots. The different gameplay styles in a game aimed at the younger audience are actually quite impressive.
Then there are the collectibles, of which there are enough to keep the average fan of the show busy for ages. All of the weapons are upgradable and customisable, and in between levels the player can spend coins on the two mini-games, skee-ball and claw machine. Both of these give out prize tickets that can then be traded for costumes and new characters. Whilst neither of the mini-games are particularly involving, collecting new stuff is a great reason to come back for more.
In regards to the looks and sounds of the game, everything nicely ties in with the TV show, with the visuals being bright, colourful and cartoony, whilst the audio is authentic to the show, or so I have been led to believe. As an added bonus for fans of the the show, four episodes have been cunningly stored on the disc for your viewing pleasure, which is something I wasn’t expecting.
There are two flaws in the Phineas and Ferb appreciation though. Firstly, the game does become repetitive and lacking in variety as the player progresses. The second flaw is that the game is far too easy. However, the reality is that the target audience of this game, fans of the show who will generally be younger than the average gamer, will find neither of these things to be a problem. In fact, the low difficulty of the game makes it ideal as a parent and child activity in co-op.
Core gamers and those looking for a challenge shouldn’t even be looking at this game anyway, it’s not for you. But for its target audience, Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension does what it says on the tin and will provide hours of entertainment. Movie and TV show tie-in games generally get a bad rap. But for what it is, a kid’s game, Phineas and Ferb bucks the trend and is well worth a look if you are a fan.