For those that have never heard of Ben 10, it’s basically a cartoon show about a kid that uses a watch-like device to turn into beefed up superheroes that each have their own unique powers. I’ve never been an avid fan of Ben 10, but I am one for Cartoon Network as a whole. There are plenty of shows I’d fondly look back on and even come back to watch all over again.

While Ben 10 wasn’t one of them, I remember leaving the original show on in the background plenty of times. I do know some basic things about the series that way, but nothing too trivial. Well, other than the amount of times Cartoon Network decided to bring it back. How many times does a TV cartoon need a continuation? I guess the original show was successful if CN thought it was a good idea to give it FOUR sequel shows. Don’t even get me started on the live-action movies based on it.

But I’m getting off-track. This is a video game review, after all.

Story

This Nintendo Switch game is based on the latest Ben 10 reboot, which is a weird Teen Titans Go-style version of the original show’s concept that evidently tries too hard to aim itself at small children. Ben himself is the designated hero that gives Sonic the Hedgehog a run for his money when it comes to inflated egos. Gwen and Grandpa Max are relatives that are just along for the ride. Gwen tries countering Ben’s snobbishness with sarcasm and stealth insults, but Grandpa Max doesn’t seem to care what’s going on as long as Ben stops the evil dudes.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but weren’t these characters more developed in the older shows? I remember there being much more to it, yet these interpretations are just rehashes of children’s cartoon cliches. I certainly remember there being more interesting villains. Who are these guys; a giant queen bee, a hand-me-down Joker, and a robot person? Where’s Kevin? Has Kevin appeared in the new show yet? He seemed like an actual threat before he became an anti-hero. How about Vilgax?

So after noticing all that, what is the actual plot of the Ben 10 video game? Simple: A villain wreaks havoc, Ben comes to stop it, rinse and repeat for two more times. None of the villains’ plots tie in with each other, nor do they even make the finale feel more special than previous encounters. In between the battles are loads of corny puns, one-liners, and monotonous gameplay mechanics.

Graphics

When you have to make a game based off the new show, you know the visuals aren’t going to look good. It’s safe to say I don’t like how the reboot looks, and it sure as heck doesn’t look any better when 3D-ified (for a lack of a better way to put it) as a video game. The attempt to convert the style into 3D is also rather reminiscent of games in the sixth generation that tried doing the same with Spongebob, Family Guy, Powerpuff Girls, etc. It doesn’t look appealing, and it could only continue losing its luster as time passes on.

Even without that context, the levels feel totally bland and ho-hum. Nothing stands out from one another, and sometimes visual design layouts would even be reused at points to pad out a level’s already-elongated length. The enemies may have difference appearances to suit the villain the “story” focuses on, but they all seem to behave similarly to one another without any real identity to them.

Audio

I hope you like the voice acting, because the music and sound effects are pretty darn soft. To the game’s credit, the voice actors from the Ben 10 reboot do reprise their roles here. Tara Strong is especially notable here, since she voiced Ben during the original show’s run. Everyone else, however, has totally different voice actors than in any of the previous shows. Why that is I will never know, but it’s not like the characters’ personalities are there anyway.

Gameplay

You’d think a game about Ben 10 would open up a lot of possibilities. After all, you have a protagonist who can turn into all these different alien superheroes on a whim. Has its potential ever been utilized in any of the Ben 10 video games over the years?? This game sure doesn’t do it justice; it’s a beat ’em up, and a very run-of-the-mill one at that. The game is divided into six levels. Each level took me 10-20 minutes to play through. That’s roughly under two hours, yet Ben 10 overstays its welcome by at least an hour and a half!

The big problem with making a beat ’em up is that you need to make sure every waking moment is engaging. You can’t have a game where all you do is wail on enemies with the same one-two punch over and over again or else it would get boring real quick. Beat ’em ups in the 1990s consisted of games that took less than an hour to beat, but made sure each level had varying enemies and obstacles that tested players’ reflexes and ability to fight back. Many point to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, particularly Turtles in Time, as textbook examples of how to do it.

Ben 10 doesn’t do that. It’s as unimaginative as it is a drag. Ben can transform into different aliens, sure, but the name of the game is still just beating up bad guys. When you’re not fighting, you’re just walking along a linear hazard-less path to get to the next batch of baddies. This process is put on loop for the duration of the entire game. The closest there is to taking advantage of Ben’s alien abilities distinctively are situational prompts that the game informs you of to tell you what alien to use in order to continue walking that linear hazard-less path.

Verdict

Didn’t we just get Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers? Ben 10 goes into a lot of the same exact pitfalls that game suffered from to the point where it’s uncanny. Either way, this is a very dull game. It probably underwent the mentality that it could be used as kiddy fodder, but on a console where Super Mario Odyssey exists and there are lots of experiences with more bang for the buck, what exactly compels children to want to play this one? The ability to control Ben? There’s a novelty to that, but it’s one anyone is destined to grow out of quickly while better titles withstand the test of time to deliver experiences people can enjoy at any age and mindset.

What I’m saying is I don’t recommend Ben 10.