Friday, August 28, 2020

Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff (360)

Following the release of a video game based on Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, another one followed two years later titled Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff. Unlike Across the 2nd Dimension, however, while the game was available across all then-current Nintendo platforms (DS, 3DS, Wii, Wii U), it would also be made available for Xbox 360 rather than PS3, allowing Xbox players access to their own Phineas and Ferb console experience. As I am not a heavy Xbox player, I opted for the Xbox 360 version anyway when hunting down this game simply to have an excuse to use the system, and was fortunate enough to grab a physical copy from a used game store whose inventory was disappearing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While short, Quest for Cool Stuff is executed well enough that its story feels like it could easily fit into the show’s 104 days.

It is now the last week of summer, so Phineas and Ferb want to make it count in a big way. The boys decide to build a Museum of Cool, though they don’t have any cool stuff to put it in. To do so, Ferb creates the All-Terrain Transformatron (A.T.T.) to help them look for cool stuff for the Museum. Meanwhile, Perry the Platypus is assigned to stop Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s latest attempt to take over the Tri-State Area, which involves using his new Find-Cool-Stuff-inator to gather all of the cool stuff in the Tri-State Area in order to make himself look “cool”.

The story itself is very much in line with a Phineas and Ferb episode, including interspersing the A-plot of Phineas and Ferb with the B-plot of Perry the Platypus, whereas the DS entries Phineas and Ferb and Phineas and Ferb Ride Again tended to treat Agent P as more of an afterthought. While previous Phineas and Ferb games would usually end up retelling episode plots or expanding on a movie, this game seems to put more effort into trying to tell an original story, which is pulled off to great effect. However, you can finish the story in around two-three hours, and even 101% the entire game in about five, which feels paradoxically like the right length for a Phineas and Ferb story, yet like there's also not enough content.

The general gameplay is that of a 2.5D Metroidvania platformer, with the objective being to track down “cool stuff”, as well as other collectibles, across multiple levels. Much like the DS games, the Flynn-Fletcher backyard serves as a hub world in which to access levels, as well as the Museum of Cool itself. In each level, Phineas and Ferb pilot the A.T.T., which is capable of attacking enemies, wall-jumping and drilling through walls by converting to a drill mode. While in drill mode, however, the A.T.T. moves slower and loses the ability to wall jump, so the standard mode is optimal for most situations. As a small detail, the standard mode for the A.T.T. is designed to vaguely resemble Ferb, while switching to drill mode causes it to vaguely resemble Phineas, complete with a hair style change.

Gameplay of an A.T.T. level.

Over time, you can upgrade the A.T.T. to perform additional feats, such as wheels for minecart sections or headlights to see in the dark. This is where the Metroidvania aspects come into play, as some areas of a level are inaccessible unless you have these upgrades, necessitating going back to that level again to gain access to those areas to look for more collectibles. Upgrading the A.T.T. to include an air tank allows access to underwater levels as well, however these play a little awkwardly since the A.T.T. is now more like a submarine and you can freely float around, with water physics taken into account. There are extra incentives to revisit levels in the form of side quests, which are offered to you by Isabella, Baljeet and Buford in the backyard, though it can take a little guesswork to figure out which levels will fulfill which side quest. Incidentally, you also have the ability to swap between playing as Phineas or Ferb while in the backyard hub world, though this has no effect on gameplay and is mainly there for flavor.

Fitting with the story, levels are paced in a similar fashion to a Phineas and Ferb episode, with A.T.T. levels broken up by the occasional Agent P level. Agent P levels are similar in nature to the A.T.T. levels, but a lot more straightforward in design. That said, these levels include a unique collectible in the form of lawn gnomes, however, much like most of the collectibles in the A.T.T. levels, they mainly exist to provide bragging rights and don’t have any visible effect on gameplay. Much like the A.T.T., Perry can change forms as well, in his case that of a regular platypus to fool security scanners, and while in this mode the attack button instead causes him to make his signature platypus noises from the show.

The primary form of collectible in the game is sprockets, which are found across all A.T.T. and Agent P levels and act as a form of currency to upgrade the appearance of the Museum of Cool or purchase cosmetics to customize the appearance of the A.T.T. In A.T.T. levels, you can even acquire bonus sprockets at the end of a stage based on the spin of a roulette wheel, with the result multiplied by how many hidden Ducky Momos you collect, of which there are three. Additionally, there are often some hidden areas, some of which are obscured by walls and foreground scenery. Among these hidden areas is a doorway to a room where you can gather additional sprockets within a time limit; collecting all of them in time nets you a treasure (or sprockets on subsequent attempts). However, you can't immediately retry if you fail, requiring you to start the level over from the beginning just to get another chance.

Agent P levels are more linear.

When you build A.T.T. upgrades or side quest items, you play a minigame where you collect sprockets and computer chips within a time limit. Fortunately, if you fail, the minigame starts over again until you accomplish it, though this may take multiple attempts, as the platforming can require precise timing of jumps to clear some gaps, an issue that's also present in other levels. Related, many levels include bounce pads, however you have to press the jump button at the right time you land on them in order to get any momentum, which can make things even more awkward/frustrating at times. Despite that, at least on the Xbox 360 version, the minigame is a step up from the minigames on the DS entries, which often required usage of the touch screen to trace images or solve puzzles.

Complementing the writing, the visuals look very much like a Phineas and Ferb episode, down to the level and background design including the texture triangles often found in the show’s backgrounds. While the art style closely matches the show and original designs look straight out of that world, it only further proves that the designs of Phineas and Ferb themselves don’t translate well to 3D, as though they were only meant to be seen from a front 3/4 view. The sound design is faithful to Phineas and Ferb as well, featuring full voice acting with the same voice actors from the show, though Buford sounds a little off somehow, at least initially. There is no subtitle option, since subs are permanently on, however there is a tendency for them to lag a little behind what is actually being said.

Some songs from the series make an appearance as well, such as the title screen including the full version of the show’s opening theme, “It’s Gonna Be a Great Day” by Bowling for Soup. The musical stings for Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated and Perry the Platypus are included as well, and used at the appropriate times, as are the Ducky Momo music and the oft-used background track “Quirky Worky Song”. Additionally, “Hey Ferb” from the Season 2 episode “Rollercoaster: The Musical!” plays during the hub world, the first time with lyrics, though the lyrics can get a little distracting during a cutscene.

Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff is a spiritually-faithful adaptation of the TV series, even if it runs a bit on the short side. The gameplay has some faults and feels a little repetitive at times, though there is enough variety to prevent it from becoming monotonous. The art and audio directions are faithful to the show as well, providing a more authentic experience to a seasoned Phineas and Ferb fan. If you are a Phineas and Ferb fan, I would still recommend this game, though fans of the Metroidvania gameplay style may get some enjoyment out of this as well.

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