For those unfamiliar with the TV series, Phineas And Ferb is actually one of the better cartoons of recent times - and is heads and shoulders above the rest of the programs on the Disney channel. It follows the adventures of the two titular step-brothers, Phineas Flynn and Ferb Fletcher who spend their days inventing various contraptions. While they're absorbed in their creations and adventures, their pet platypus Perry is off being a secret agent and everything, putting a stop to the evil plans of Dr. Doofensmirtz, while their sister Candace is preoccupied with getting the pair in trouble with their Mom - usually with very little success.
Following the story of the film of the same name, in Across the Second Dimension, Dr Doofenshmirtz has built himself an 'Other Dimensionator' – a contraption which, once switched on, transports Dr. D, Phineas, Ferb, their sister Candace and a smattering of their friends into a variety of other dimensions, in an effort to stop the other dimension Dr. Doofenshmirtz from taking over the world. Or something like that, anyway. The other dimensions range from black and white movie-style corn fields, to a goo-filled version of their hometown of Danville, and even a land inhabited by garden gnomes.
The game starts off well, with 'Other Dimension Isabella' ready to lend a hand and explain the various items you find – like telling you what the hundreds of health packs scattered around the levels are for (restoring your health, in case you didn't know) - but strangely neglects to tell you how to jump, shoot and change weapons, instead leaving you to work it out for yourself. As you play through the game, you'll find plenty of things that could probably do with an explanation get glossed over – like what the weapon upgrade benches and various upgrades actually do (bar the ones that make you're guns moo or whatever), or what you're actually meant to do in the inbetween level mini-games.
If you've played any of the Lego games before, then you'll be on familiar ground here, as Phineas and Ferb is essentially a less entertaining version of the LEGO games, which ask you and your co-op partner to make your way through a series of levels doing a mixture of beating up bad guys, jumping from platform to platform and solving some simple puzzles. There's also five collectable coins hidden in each level to seek out, as well as a rather extensive arsenal of upgradable guns, from ones that launch baseballs, to a super soaker loaded with orange pop, to a rather shocking electric pulse-y gun – and you can change the sound each one makes, which is sure to get a giggle with each quack made as a baseball is fired.
The problem with Phineas And Ferb is it's plagued by illogical decisions, which quickly choke off the fun. Take deaths for example – if the second player dies, or falls off a cliff, they'll get respawned pretty much instantly next to player one, which is all fine and dandy. But if player one happens to die, both players will then get respawned at the last checkpoint you've passed - which could be several minutes earlier - regardless of whether player two has died or not. Things get especially tricky when the less talented player happens to be player one, whether it's a child, a sibling, or just someone who's simply not as good, as they end up spending half an hour failing to make a jump, and just end up feeling like they're letting the second player down by making them repeat it all over again too...
Despite the game being intended for the younger – or less experienced – players (by way of it being based around Phineas and Ferb), the game still has plenty of parts that are either genuinely quite difficult, or simply confusing. One section asks you to jump your way across a gaping gulf by leaping over a load of balloons, which start to descend if you stand on them too long. If you want to make it to the next balloon, you'll need to stand on the spot basically leaping up and down, trying to stop the balloon from disappearing off the bottom of the screen, whilst making sure you jump high enough that the balloon can float back into position so that you can jump to the next balloon safely. Now imagine two people trying to manage this together, and having to synchronise jumping. Combine this with the aforementioned respawning problems, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
Adding to the disappointment - although not a problem that's unique to Phineas and Ferb - is that, like a lot of children's film tie-in games, Phineas And Ferb: Across The Second Dimension is very short – the pair of us breezed through it in just over an evening, even taking into account my many platforming mishaps and a crucial snack break. You're probably looking at four or five hours at the very most to play through the six different dimensions, collect all the hidden coins and unlock all the gun upgrades in the between-level mini-games.
Phineas And Ferb: Across The Second Dimension is by no means a terrible game, but it's short length, a few anomalously difficult sections and a handful of weird design decisions keep it from being up there with the likes of the various Lego games and Batman: The Brave And The Bold. By all means, if you're a fan of the TV show, you'll probably enjoy this while it lasts, but it'll be over before you know it, and there's nothing to really keep you coming back.
Phineas and Ferb is out now on the Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS. While the PS3 and Wii ones are essentially the same game, the DS edition is different, despite sharing the same name.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii