There’s something effortlessly charming about G-Force. Whether it’s the refreshingly respectful approach to the game mechanics, easing the player in gently and giving enough hints but never holding their hand completely I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the competent visuals that shift along at Eurocom’s usual 60 frames per second, notably above par for a game based on a kid’s animated movie, or maybe it’s the slick interface, the thoughtful pacing or the perfectly judged difficulty curve? It’s probably a blend of all the above, of course, but when a game surprises you with such production standards it can be an absolute joy to play, and surely that’s the most important thing.
From the off, when you’re introduced to lead character Darwin, everything is superbly crisp and fluid, and although the beginning of the game acts purely as an introduction to the controls and the gameplay you can’t help but try on the 3D glasses and spin the camera around your guinea pig avatar. Believe it or not, it works – no, you won’t be playing through the entire game like this but given the necessary limitations of the red/green stereoscopic view it’s an impressive feat; pushing the camera up close to Darwin reveals plenty of detail and although headaches will surely follow extended play there’s that brief period of wow factor that’s worth picking up again every so often, especially during the few on-rails sections.
G-Force the game, then, is based heavily on the film, and although you’ll get by without having already watched the antics of the secret FBI department up on the silver screen, you’ll get the most enjoyment out of the console versions if you have. The overarching plot is never really explained and characters are introduced as if the player should know exactly who they are already. To be honest, it’s not a massive flaw (and reminiscent of Ghostbusters) but some background on who’s who would have been appreciated, even if it’s just the principle characters. For the unfamiliar don’t let this put you off, but I guarantee that after watching the movie you’ll want to replay the video game to get the maximum enjoyment.
The game itself is a third person shooter, sticking firmly to recent genre-staple controls: left stick moves, right stick aims, the triggers are used for zooming and firing and the face buttons flick between your available weapons. Using your whip is a little cumbersome at first but soon becomes natural and the fact that weapons can be upgraded in terms of power, ammunition and speed means that you’ll find your favourites and just stick with those rather than having to micro manage multiple arrays of arsenal. Upgrades, maps and health can be purchased at vending machines and bring to mind EA’s Dead Space in terms of functionality and placing, albeit in rather less menacing surroundings.
Speaking of which, most of the game takes place within laboratory and factory settings and whilst the five levels are different enough to warrant the end of section Trophies and Achievements the action doesn’t really shift that much from your commonplace shooter staples: boxes, crates, computers, sliding doors and endless streams of enemies. If you’re not down with the kids and fully clued up on the premise of the story, the central theme is that everyday appliances – toasters, shredders and coffee makers – have become sentinel and self aware, and rather dangerous. Cut-scenes introduce each new enemy and a Metroid-like scan function will highlight any weak points, but generally each round of the nasty white goods will require deft use of the twin sticks and plenty of trigger action.
Diversions to the shooting come in two forms: your sidekick, a fly called Mooch, can fit through smaller gaps and (obviously) fly a lot higher than you can jump which breaks up the action into skill and time-based puzzling, and secondly, tunnel-based on-rails driving as the G-Force gang get strapped in to their laser-equipped balls and try to cover a lot of distance without taking too much damage. They do make a positive difference to the flow of the game because the lengthy on-foot sections can drag a little and although the save points and checkpoints are well placed a lot of what the game asks you to do can feel a little samey, despite the drip flow of new enemies and weapons to try to keep things fresh.
G-Force’s biggest problem, though, is its target audience. For kids who want to recreate scenes from the film on their PS3 or Xbox 360 we’re tempted to think the analog controls and depth of the weaponry might be a little too taxing for small hands and low attention thresholds, but conversely the game doesn’t quite offer enough challenge (even on the hardest level) for adult gamers. Still, there’s plenty of hidden collectables to find and lots of secret sections to discover and although the very young probably won’t see past the first level the rest of us can expect to get through the considerable story mode in around eight or nine hours on a first playthrough.
In terms of movie tie-ins G-Force is a success. Eurocom have captured the look and feel of the film perfectly and the characterisation (complete with the real cast doing voiceovers) is superb. And yes, whilst the game has bags of charm and appeal it’s split down the middle between offering simple gameplay for kids and not being tough enough for hardcore gamers – if you’re prepared to help out your little sprogs now and again (and opt to try and find every last detail when playing it for yourself) it’s probably the perfect family game, and perhaps that’s all Disney were aiming for in the first place. Cute, harmless enough but maybe just needed a little brush before leaving it’s ball.