Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Phineas and Ferb: Day of Doofenshmirtz

Earlier this year, Sony announced the intent to shut down the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita digital storefronts, leaving countless digital games forever lost, only to reverse this decision later. It was during this brief period where we panic-bought a number of PS3 and PS Vita titles, during which we discovered that a game based on Phineas and Ferb had been released for the Vita, Phineas and Ferb: Day of Doofenshmirtz, which we did not know about previously. Since the game only received a digital release in the US, I opted to purchase a European physical copy to take advantage of the system being region-free. Some time after the PS Vita store was announced to not be shut down, I decided to play the game to see what it was like. While it is generally decent, my feeling are mixed on how well it works as a Phineas and Ferb game.

While figuring out what to do that day, Phineas and Ferb learn they can win free tickets to Monster Mayhem if they can defeat Truck Chucker, and so construct Carsaurus Moto-Rex to that end. Meanwhile, as revenge for not being able to return a panini press, Doofenshmirtz creates an Appliance Control-inator that brings appliances to life so he can control them and rule over the Tri-State Area. This also brings to life the completed Carsaurus Moto-rex, which quickly goes out of control, leading Phineas and Ferb to hunt it down while fighting their way through living appliances.

The story is presented in the style of a comic book, complete with comic book-like cutscenes, in which you can look around using the PS Vita’s gyroscope functionality, before and after some stages, spread across five Issues with multiple stages each. These cutscenes generally capture the spirit of Phineas and Ferb and, rather fittingly, have two of these “Issues” dedicated to Agent P as a break from the Phineas an Ferb stages. While it is generally in line with the Phineas and Ferb formula, I did notice that, despite vending machines being an enemy type in the game, there was a gigantic missed opportunity to reference Doofenshmirtz’s paranoia over a vending machine uprising as seen in the TV series and the Across the 2nd Dimension film.

The story is presented like a comic book.

Additionally, the game also captures the visual style of Phineas and Ferb, with the in-game models similar in quality to the Across the 2nd Dimension game and Quest for Cool Stuff despite not being very expressive. Perhaps oddly similarly to some licensed comic books in real life, the comic book cutscenes also have the occasional off-model moments, such as Phineas sometimes lacking the spots on his forehead and a particularly noticeable instance in one panel of the intro cutscene to Issue 3 where Candace’s top suddenly has short sleeves rather than the traditionally sleeveless look.

Acknowledging that the game was produced after the TV series had already ended its original run, Day of Doofenshmirtz is an odd case of the developer managing to secure the likeness and visuals and not any of the sound. Aside from an (ill-timed) instrumental version of “Today is Gonna Be a Great Day” by Bowling for Soup during the introductory cutscene, the game features no audio from the series whatsoever, not even the jingles for Agent P or Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated, which also extends to the voice acting. The music the game uses instead is minimal and admittedly catchy, however it sounds a little generic in the context of Phineas and Ferb. The lack of voice acting also leads to at least one awkward moment where the mouth movement for Dee Bradley Baker’s iconic Perry the Platypus noise is animated, yet you don’t actually hear it. This leads to the dialogue being told entirely through the use of subtitles on the bottom of the screen, however they can sometimes move a little fast.

The core gameplay involves shooting at enemies in an isometric view, using the right stick to aim your shots and R to fire while using the left sick to move. Additionally, L can be used to dodge in a power slide motion, the distance travelled allowing faster level traversal as well depending on who you play as, while the Circle button is context-sensitive. There are also some platforming and puzzle solving elements to break up the combat, as well as some levels with different gameplay styles that add some amount of variety. Menu navigation is also done entirely using the touch screen, including the pause menu, while the rear touch pad noticeably does not get used.

Most levels include a number of collectibles as incentive to explore the levels further, such as Tokens (both hidden and in the open) that are used as currency in the Workshop, as well as Parts dropped from enemies that serve a similar purpose, and you are graded at the end of a level based entirely on how many collectibles you obtain by the end of it. Your grade is also influenced by how many secret areas you find, some of which can only be accessed by using the Teleport Gadget, which must first be constructed by finding all five pieces scattered throughout the game, with one hidden in each of the five Issues.

There are three types of weapons that play similarly to each other and serve different purposes, and can be freely swapped by touching the upper right corner of the screen. Between these weapons are a ball launcher, a flamethrower that can also be used to destroy ice and a water gun that can also douse flames. While the standard shots do their job and have infinite ammo, additional shots can be created in the Workshop, albeit with limited ammo capacity, which have additional effects and can deal much greater damage in the late game. You can also swap out your shots at any time in the Select menu, however you are unable to do so while in combat, where you are fenced off.

The lack of information on this game online is astonishing.

Forging new shots also requires you to spend Tokens on the plans for said shots as well as Batteries to use in conjunction with Parts. Outside of gameplay, additional Tokens can be earned by playing the Arcade, which takes the form of a space shooter and requires 100 Tokens to play per level. Aside from weapon upgrades, Tokens can be spent on purchasing cosmetics for the robot in the AR mode. Phineas and Ferb also have additional costumes that can be unlocked, including by destroying 1000 robots in the main menu with the touch screen, however these costumes have no effect on gameplay.

As for the different playable characters, Phineas and Ferb stages allow you to swap between them at any time by touching the upper left corner of the screen. While their general gameplay styles are similar, Phineas is more agile, thus giving him greater dodge distance, while Ferb has more damage resistance, giving him lesser dodge distance. There are other incentives to swap between them, as Ferb is the only one who can move heavy objects (marked by a silhouette of his head), while only Phineas can use the Backpack-copter to go long distances at designated areas. Agent P has similar gameplay to Phineas and Ferb, except with the added ability to double jump and move heavy objects just like Ferb can. Agent P also has some 2D and 3D flying stages, the former playing like a side-scrolling shooter where R and all of the face buttons fire, while the latter involves dodging obstacles while flying through a tunnel.

Despite the level variety present, the main combat can get pretty repetitive at times. While each set of levels has its own enemy types, they largely play similarly to the enemies seen in previous stages, only with increasingly stronger defense, and usually either fire or ram into you. The penultimate stage, “A Last Effort”, plays out more like a shooting gallery and seemed difficult at first until I figured out you could move to the side so long as you weren’t firing, something the game itself doesn’t make clear. While not unbearable, the loading screens can also get pretty lengthy at times, and even with selecting the language option and skipping the intro cutscene, the game takes about two minutes to boot up, which can bog down the experience.

While decent as a game on its own with serviceable attempts at replay value, Phineas and Ferb: Day of Doofenshmirtz is bogged down somewhat by long load times and a general lack of enemy variety. The utilization of the Phineas and Ferb license is decent as well despite some missed opportunities, and I would still recommend it to fans looking for more out of the series, however there are better Phineas and Ferb games out there.

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