For PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2 and Windows PC. Alternate version for Nintendo DS. Rated 10-plus *** 1/2 (3 1/2 STARS)
Every spring, a wave of kids' movie tie-in games, ranging from bland to terrible, invades stores and preys on unsuspecting parents.
This year almost certainly will be no different. But before that wave crashes down, we have Monsters vs. Aliens, a game that not only is terrifically fun for kids, but legitimately good enough for their older siblings and parents to enjoy.
The monsters are the good guys in Monsters, and you'll have ample opportunity to control three (or four) of them. Ginormica, a 49-foot woman with pickup-truck-sized roller skates, typically handles racing missions. The Missing Link, a weird fish/gorilla hybrid, is gifted in deconstructing enormous alien robots. Finally, there's a dopey blue blob named B.O.B., whose ability to stick to walls and ceilings and squeeze through grates makes him good for missions through mazelike arenas. (An offline mode allows a second player to be head monster Dr. Cockroach, but he is more support for the first player than a full character.)
During its opening slate of missions, Monsters shifts frequently between characters and displays an impressive grasp of all three play styles. Once the acclimation period ends, business picks up drastically. The levels are longer, and the extra time allows Monsters to drum up some really clever designs that engage your monsters' abilities in ways the earlier missions couldn't even imagine. When the game is at its best - particularly when going nuts with B.O.B.'s labyrinthine levels - it operates on a plane typically reserved for the likes of Ratchet and Mario.
Repetition returns toward the end, peaking during a final boss fight that rehashes the same sequence. Monsters occasionally leans excessively on context button sequences.
Still, it cannot be stressed enough how much this one outclasses most of its counterparts. Monsters handles numerous play styles without any one dragging down the others, and it never underestimates its audience. If the kids want a new game, this, until further notice, is the one to get.