Many kids dream of inventing all sorts of wonderful gadgets and carrying out all kinds of elaborate schemes, but Disney's Phineas and Ferb actually realize those dreams. Their resourcefulness and intelligence, along with their friendliness and likability, make them an appealing duo for kids to identify with, and Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension capitalizes on this appeal by showing the characters at their bravest and most inventive. This game is squarely aimed at younger players, and although even they may find it too easy, the varied gameplay, vivid visuals, and smart sense of humor make it an entertaining adventure.
A catchy opening song sets the stage for this interdimensional outing. A trip through a portal opened by Dr. Doofenshmirtz's otherdimensionator has taken Phineas and Ferb out of their own tri-state area and into those of alternate realities. As the game picks up, Phineas and Ferb arrive in a place that looks a lot like their hometown of Danville, but something is clearly amiss: There's gelatin everywhere! Massive piles of purple goop make it clear that this is not the same Danville they call home. Throughout the course of the game, Phineas and Ferb visit a number of strange dimensions on their journey home, including one in which life resembles an old-fashioned black-and-white cartoon and another in which people live under the terrifying control of garden gnomes.
The entire game faithfully captures the whimsical look of the cartoon, and seeing what each new dimension looks like, as well as discovering what bizarre elements differentiate it from our own, is part of the fun of this escapade. Clever writing makes these characters a pleasure to spend time with, and though the game is designed for youngsters, parents and older siblings who play along will find that the dialogue is smart enough for them to enjoy, too. ("Technically, the gnomes formed an oligarchy.")
It's also varied enough to remain pleasant and fun for anyone who might accompany a young child on his or her travels. In Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, you never do the same thing for long. One moment, you're doing some breezy platforming; the next, you're fending off robots with your baseball launcher, carbonator, or one of your other gadgets; and the next, you're using your antigravity ray to put pieces in place to solve a simple puzzle. You also steer yourself down slides, guide flying baseballs down hallways to trigger buttons, blast robots while flying through town on jetpacks, and more. None of these activities are extraordinary in and of themselves. The platforming never rises above simple jumping from one slow-moving platform to another. And although combat occasionally introduces new elements, like turrets you can place to help you defeat enemies, those enemies pose so little threat that this help is unnecessary. But by constantly shuffling you from one type of gameplay to another, Phineas and Ferb manages to hold your interest.
This is an enjoyable romp, but the utter lack of challenge keeps it from being an exciting one. It also keeps the game free of frustration, which parents might appreciate. But even young children feel more empowered by conquering a powerful foe than by defeating a toothless one. Your projectiles automatically home in on enemies as long as you're facing in their general direction, and the abundance of health packs everywhere makes any damage you suffer in combat or from falling off of platforms inconsequential. Still, the large bosses you face in each dimension look tough even if they are pushovers, and triumphing over a massive goozim or emerging victorious in a boss battle against a towering robotic contraption is sure to give youngsters a thrill.
As you use your gadgets, they level up, and at workbenches scattered throughout each level, you can spend the electronic components you constantly collect to upgrade these handy devices. Additionally, mods located in slightly out-of-the-way spots further improve your weapons; the junk ball mod makes the baseballs you fire explode, for example, while the noxious smell mod for your ninja gloves makes enemies dizzy. And for some added silliness, you can buy and equip sound chips in your gadgets to make them moo, quack, or emit all other sorts of sounds. The way your gadgets improve during the course of your journey brings with it a satisfying sense of progression, and the goofier customization options let kids make the experience their own.
There are always two characters in play, and when you're playing solo, the AI does a fine job of keeping up with you and lending a hand in tussles. Conveniently, a second player can drop in or out at any time. Initially, you're limited to playing as either Phineas or Ferb, but more characters soon become available. There are minor differences between them--Ferb is a bit more resistant to damage, for instance, and Agent P dishes out more damage than other characters--but these benefits are so subtle and the action so easy that you can just ignore these differences and choose your favorite characters.
In addition to having sharper, high-definition visuals, the PlayStation 3 version includes four episodes of the TV show, and because both versions are priced at a reasonable $39.99, that's the better option if you have your pick. But you can't go wrong either way. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is a good game for youngsters, and it makes great use of its license. Fans of Phineas and Ferb will enjoy this opportunity to jump into the shoes of these resourceful characters, and those who come to this game who aren't fans already just might be by the time they're done.