Published & Developed by Infogrames
Platform: Playstation 2
ESRB Rating: Teen (Blood, Comic Mischief, Violence)
It is a near-universal truth in the computer gaming world that movie tie-ins are terrible games. LucasArts has provided some entertaining exceptions to this rule, but outside of those, the argument against licensed properties in video games is pretty solid. Men in Black II: Alien Escape serves as yet another bit of evidence to hold up against licensed games. Generic gameplay, uninspired visuals, and a nearly palpable sense of desperation to ride someone else’s coat-tails all combine to make the game another casualty in the war to translate successful properties from other mediums into the world of digital gaming.
To start with, the game ostensibly lets you select from either of everyone’s favorite pair of MiBs, Jay and Kay. Unfortunately, the voice-acting for the characters isn’t performed by either the original stars (probably an expense issue) or the voice talent that portrayed them in the animated series (which couldn’t have been an expense issue, and can only be chalked up to bad decision-making). So they don’t sound like Jay and Kay. Add to this a really mediocre modeling job, and they don’t actually look like Jay and Kay, either. Pretty disappointing stuff. They’d have been better off naming them Aitch and Eye and trying to distance themselves from such comparisons, but oh well.
[ad#longpost]Visually, the game is decent. Nothing to write home about, but decent. The lighting effects on weapons fire is impressive, but the cartoonish element of immense plasma balls flying back and forth across the screen serves to do little but block the player’s view of what’s going on. The light show is neat, but it does more to hinder gameplay than to help it. Some of the aliens are creatively designed, but each level bears such a high degree of repetition (often pitting you against the same three or four creature types for an entire level) that it’s hard to remain entusiastic about character design.
The soundtrack is terrible stuff, almost painful to listen to for extended periods of time. And, like the creature design, it’s very, very repetitive. Coupled with the lame voice-acting, it sums to a pretty low score on the ol’ Ear Candy scale. Word to the wise: if you’re going to license a property for a game, go ahead and license some snippets of the soundtrack or score along with it, so you can at least have that going for you when the game hits the street.
In gameplay terms, this is as vanilla as it gets. Straight-ahead, no-frills, third-person shooter. The game suffers all the problems associated with trying to target a shooter from over the character’s shoulder and all the annoying vagaries of shifting camera angles to try and see what’s right in front of your character. You’re given a basic selection of weapons that you can “power up” by grabbing goodies on the battlefield, but these power-ups are what create the impenetrable light shows that block your view of the action, so getting the guns souped up is really a mixed blessing. The level design makes the game challenging enough, but I can’t imagine staying interested long enough to persevere through it. As to replayability, it has none. Even the most die-hard fan of the third-person shooter genre wouldn’t want to sit through this one more than once, especially given that the only possible justification would be to play as the MiB you didn’t select earlier.
So once again, the Law of Licensed Properties exerts its foul will and hands off a tragically mediocre game adaptation of a movie. Men in Black II: Alien Escape is a snoozer of a shooter, with mediocre graphics, bad sound (both music and voice), and no good reason to keep playing. Huge fans of the movies might want to rent it just to get the chance to unload on somebody with cool MiB weapons, but even they will be disappointed at the lack of a Noisy Cricket or Series 4 De-Atomizer in the arsenal.