Phineas and Ferb simple fun

As summer stretches on, most gaming companies release fewer titles, preferring to wait for the fall/holiday bonanza. This gives me time to review some games I might have otherwise overlooked.

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Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Wii, DS

Genre: Action

Publisher: Disney Interactive

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: Three stars (out of five)

As summer stretches on, most gaming companies release fewer titles, preferring to wait for the fall/holiday bonanza. This gives me time to review some games I might have otherwise overlooked.

I’ll first admit to never having seen the Disney cartoon that inspired this game. So when an evil doctor sucks our two protagonists into alternate realities, I’m guessing that’s just par for the course.

Clearly, being based on a children’s cartoon series, this game is not aimed at gamers in their mid-30s. So some concessions have to be made when critiquing such a game.

That said, what transpires in Across the 2nd Dimension is an uncomplicated game but one that revels in its simplicity and entices younger gamers with a boatload of varying gameplay types. You may be platforming one moment, then doing some light shooting (with goofy weapons, of course) and then using silly-looking tools to complete puzzles. It’s all light and breezy in the various dimensions, so kids can focus on ridding these realms of evil purple goo.

There is no real challenge in this game, even for novices. When you consider the lengths that big-budget games go to entice gamers and fail miserably, it’s amazing to see something so simple provide a fun and well-executed experience.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Genre: Shooter

Publisher: Ubisoft

ESRB Rating: M, for Mature

Grade: 2.5 stars

The third Call of Juarez game takes on a decidedly different feel than the first two in this gritty series. Instead of continuing the classic Western vibe, The Cartel goes modern, as you fight against well-armed drug cartels instead of defending mining towns and telling the story of two conflicted brothers.

With a modern setting, the three main characters’ internal (and external) conflicts follow a path we’ve seen dozens of times. If the stereotypes of dirty cops forced to unite to achieve a goal were less predictable and trivial, The Cartel might have won me over.

You play as either of the three antihero officers. The story ends the same either way, but the journey is unique for each person, and how the story unfolds can be fascinating because you are given information individually instead of as a group. This opens up motivations and distrust amongst the trio, which, if implemented properly, could have made the gameplay really interesting.

The game really fails in the disparities between online and offline play. Online is the big winner, where you can play side missions, perform character-specific fetch quests and choose options that are surprisingly nonexistent if playing alone offline. The Cartel punishes you for playing alone by making the artificial-intelligence-driven characters a ragtag collection of nincompoops who have no interest in working as a team, let alone surviving.

Recommending this game is difficult since the best way to experience it is to force two buddies to own it as well, and The Cartel strays too far from its comfort zone to be a worthwhile investment.

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or email him at game_on_games@mac.com.

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