Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Phineas and Ferb Ride Again

About a year after the release of Phineas and Ferb on DS, Disney Interactive Studios released a direct sequel, Phineas and Ferb Ride Again, developed by the same studio, Altron. Reviews were generally more positive and, nearly ten years later, it’s apparent that Altron had managed to improve the formula set by the previous game within such a short development window. However, there are still a few issues that were hard to gloss over.

Once again, there isn’t much of a stand-alone plot, since the game more or less adapts four episodes of Phineas and Ferb. While the plots feel more de-emphasized here, each world seems to incorporate elements of two episodes at once. World 1 includes “The Beak” and “At the Car Wash”, World 2 is based on “The Chronicles of Meap” with a nod to “Gaming the System”, World 3 is generally based on “The Lake Nose Monster” and World 4 loosely adapts “Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror” while incorporating “Atlantis”.

The Worlds take elements from multiple espisodes.

The gameplay is nearly identical to the previous game, so I won’t retread that, but I will talk about the various quality of life improvements Altron made. The gameplay is less reliant on the touch screen, which allows the gameplay to feel more streamlined. Phineas and Ferb’s items are more passive, with some now activated through a simple button press, sometimes in specific places in the environment. Other actions are now initiated through buttons presses, including saving with Perry, who now shows up more frequently. There’s also less of a need to obtain specific parts for a repair job, with most repairs now requiring only screws and only special obstacles requiring special parts. Swapping brothers will also now teleport them close by instead of across the map.

Candace’s Bust’Em Bar is also streamlined. It will now only fill up when Phineas/Ferb is damaged or falls and items that lower the bar are used automatically when collected. A minigame will still trigger when the bar is filled up, but now failure will no longer result in a game over.

The general gameplay is streamlined from the original.

The level design is still pretty linear, with some hidden secrets, but finding hidden areas is now no longer completely mandatory and the platforming is built around taking advantage of the new items that are introduced. Exploration is still rewarded, however, as there are collectable photos and memorabilia, as well as hidden bonus levels in each world.

Unlike the previous game, Ride Again now also has proper Agent P stages at the end of each World, which helps the game feel closer to the spirit of Phineas and Ferb. These stages feature a brief gameplay segment, with a different genre each time, followed by a boss fight. These stages also generally match the episodes the Phineas and Ferb levels are based on. Though the first Agent P stage seems to feature original content, the Slowinator, the others seems to be based on “The Chronicles of Meap”, “The Lake Nose Monster” and “Atlantis”.

There are now proper Agent P segments,
complete with proper boss fights.

Another major improvement lies in the Courses, the reward for collecting all the Course Pieces in each World. Rather than base them all off the same roller coaster blueprint, they are now appropriately themed to each world and have varied gameplay styles. As an added bonus, the player now no longer has to build the vehicles for each Course from scratch. Overall, these changes help this part of the game feel more rewarding for the effort.

One of the Courses is a kart racer.

While Ride Again does introduce a lot of improvements, it still can’t escape its own flaws. Some of these are more nitpicky, like the fact that the game uses the mic a lot more and there’s only one section where controlled breathing is necessary. Then there’s the fact that the lack of a penalty in the Candace minigame makes it feels a little pointless when it happens. On the subject of minigames, there’s one that involves using the DS camera, but I could never fully figure out how to make it work smoothly, so the few times that came up felt very awkward.

One of the bigger annoyances is actually the fact that the Agent P segments, apart from having odd controls, have no checkpoints between the gameplay and the boss fight, meaning that you’ll have to redo the whole segment from scratch if you die. Repeating everything isn’t that difficult, but can make it unnecessarily tedious. Additionally, there’s one boss fight where Norm can attack Agent P from offscreen, seemingly at random. It took me a while to realize that Doofenshmirtz telegraphs it when he pulls out a remote, but this animation can be hard to see and there’s very little time to try and avoid Norm afterwards.

I give Altron credit for ironing out potential bugs, but I still ran into a couple. A minor one involved incorrectly registering Phineas and Ferb’s location on the mini-map as outside the bounds of the level when, in fact, they were in the correct spot. A major one, however, was a very glitchy moment involving a bottomless pit. Normally, when Phineas and Ferb fall down one, they are transported to the last stable ledge. Once, however, the game instead flung Phineas toward the screen and very far out of bounds, allowing me to view the level geometry from the side. Reloading my save fixed this and I never saw it again, but it’s something to keep in mind when playing.

Like a good sequel, Phineas and Ferb Ride Again improves the formula of the original in a satisfying way. While not free of its own problems, the streamlined gameplay and other quality of life changes make it more enjoyable to play overall. I’d more easily recommend this to Phineas and Ferb fans, but even people who are just looking for a good platformer, even a licensed one, should give it a try.

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