Phineas and Ferb make everything look easy. In the span of a day they'll achieve groundbreaking milestones like building a rocket to the moon, changing the face of Mt. Rushmore, or creating the world's smartest computer. Their first foray into console videogames with Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension holds a little too true to the show in this regard. Just because their lives are effortless doesn't mean their game should be too.
Across the 2nd Dimension is about Phineas, Ferb, and the gang hopping through several alternate dimensions on their journey home. This presents itself as a series of third-person platforming levels with an emphasis on co-op. There's a decent amount of variety with Space Harrier-esque on-rails shooting levels, vehicle sequences, puzzles, and boss battles.
It's cute and captures the spirit of the show well. The characters are likable, environments gorgeous (particularly a dimension comprised of balloons), and the humour is spot on. When a chipper robot states during battle that he uses aggression to hide his insecurities, I couldn't help but laugh.
Initially, the game's pretty fun. Controls are tight and the various weapons are inventive with uses both in and out of combat. A gravity gun can move certain object around for puzzles, but also toss foes. Taking a page from Ratchet & Clank, all weapons are upgradeable with the best enhancements available to the ones most frequently used. The first time you unleash a flurry of exploding, homing baseballs on Dr. Doofenshmirtz's robots it's instantly gratifying.
Unfortunately, this gets old fast once it becomes apparent that the game is completely devoid of challenge. Health packs are dropped liberally, making Phineas' special ability to replenish health over time entirely moot. Even if you do manage to lose all your health, you're revived with no penalty by simply shaking the controller.
Successful children's games like Kirby's Epic Yarn and Traveller's Tales' Lego series' have also eschewed traditional "Game Overs," but they give players incentive to do better with a host of hidden goodies that require skill and ingenuity to attain. This isn't the case with Phineas and Ferb, whose pitiful collectibles are mostly acquired through two boring, optional mini-games, giving little reason to return or improve after the scant four hour campaign.
While this is its most damning flaw, it's not the only one. A fixed camera makes depth occasionally hard to gauge, and invisible walls are a frequent annoyance. Furthermore, who you play as makes little difference. You'll hear Phineas and Ferb's dialogue even if you're playing as Perry, or newcomer Agent T.
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension reminds me of an episode of the show where Candace trades identities with a princess only to realize that "absolute power bores absolutely." It's still entertaining for a few hours, and when looking for a co-op kid's game one could do a lot worse. Across the 2nd Dimension has a lot going for it in terms of production values, a witty script, and varied level design, but it's so fleeting and dumbed down that even children will find its power fantasies pandering.