Voltron: Defender of the Universe is a twin stick shooter based off of the 80’s cartoon of the same developed by Behaviour Interactive and published by THQ. The game is set at somepoint during the first series and lasts until the end of it. The game can be played with up to 5 players in co-op with up to 4 on the same console or the full 5 online.
You are given the choice of which level you want to play, what difficulty and which of the five lions you would like to play as. The five lions do actually have a varied set of stats and each has a unique weapon and special attack; some do seem to have more of an advantage than others but in the end it does depend on your play style.
The game starts with the planet you are protecting being attacked by enemy forces and your team scrambles to their respective lions. You make your way through the next few levels following waypoints and completing missions based on destroying certain enemies. At the end of each chapter you have to fight a 2 stage boss. These are easily the weakest section of the game, the first stage sees your camera set to rotate around the Robeast (the boss enemy) as you chip away at it health (which increases with difficulty). It will follow you around the map and unleash a few varied attacks which you can dodge or protect yourself from once you work out the pattern. After depleting its health bar for the first time your lions merge together to form Voltron in an interactive cutscene where you complete quick time events (QTE) to earn some extra points towards your score; this doesn’t stop you from transforming if you miss a QTE, you only don’t get bonus points. From there you enter a turn-based QTE game which has you choosing an attack in one of the four directions which contains random moves which only work if you manage to succeed in the QTE. The QTE for these attacks is similar to those found in sports games, most common in golf games in particular. Your opponents turn has you hitting the correct button for a QTE so that you block their attack and then hit them in retaliation. After a few turns, when the enemy’s health is depleted you then finish them off with your blazing sword, ending the fight.
Each lion has its own set of statistics, unique gun and special attack. The stats and gun really do change how each lion plays as the gun has a different fire rate, power, spread and shot speed, while the lions each have different strengths at long or close range, melee attack do different damage, have different speeds, varying amounts of health . A few of the special attacks (activated by using one of the star pieces you can collect) are more or less the same power but some do offer slightly different attacks. They are needed to keep you from being overwhelmed but as you can save up star pieces to gain lives, it is wise to hold off using them unless you really need it especially since it has a cooldown period before you can use it again. Your main moves are the twin stick shooting, your special attack, melee and pounce. Pounce has its share of problems as it can target an enemy and you can pounce onto them; this instantly kills some units while with others it damages them and leaves an area damage attack where you land which deals a great deal of damage. The problem with pounce is that it doesn’t always hit its target, especially when the enemy moves over impassable terrain or you sometimes get blocked by destructible terrain. There are a few pickups as well; star pieces let you gain lives or use special attacks, there is also invulnerability and a weapon upgrade which briefly boosts your weapon and sometimes gives it bonus abilities like homing bullets or four-way shots.
The game is bright and colourful just as the original cartoon series was; it keeps some elements such as clips from the original series but it doesn’t add that much to the game as it is a little sparing in comparison to what is expected. The game itself keeps a slightly cartoony feel and most of the enemies are either colour coded or look different enough to know what they are as soon as you see them. The game is filled with bullets a lot of the time but even with multiple players its still relatively easy to see where you are. The camera angles for boss battles are maybe a little awkward at times as you won’t be able to see where you’re going or what is headed towards you all of the time.
The audio is fine with the odd bit of dialogue from the show thrown in; it does occasionally get repetitive and annoying but it depends on the characters voice more than anything. The music is all pretty good, it doesn’t detract from the game but never really makes an impact either.
Unfortunately there is very little in terms of robust storyline in the game. It uses clips from the cartoon series to develop the plot but as you seem to be flung into the series halfway there isn’t any explanation to the bad guys or Voltron and the five lions and their pilots. The clips seem to bullet point the story progression but still feels a little disjointed compared to what’s going on as it mainly shows the bad guys and there is very little of Voltron’s crew.
Presentation and Audio
The game is quite colourful and keeps to the style of the original cartoon, with the original audio for certain sounds and voices being brought in and clips for the first series being used to tell the story it keeps faithful to the source material. The music is ok and the sound effects are pretty standard fare on the most part; which makes the original sound clips stand out more.
Abysmal Boss fights let the game down a little but the shooting is generally fun and the different lions do give a reasonable amount of variation in their attacks. A few problems with objects being impassable can occasionally be annoying but don’t hinder the game much. The game keeps you on your toes with some enemies being quite difficult to handle in groups but on the whole it feels a little easier than some games in the same genre because of the survivor mode. The space levels do mix thing up enough to keep things interesting.
The game is a competent twin stick shooter it isn’t ground-breaking and falls a little short of where it should be due to length, weak boss battles and lack of story from the cartoon clips. Still it’s reasonably fun and tries to pay homage to a series that many people enjoyed and still enjoy today, it manages in some ways but not in others but is worth a play through.
After testing each of the lions separately before restarting with another choice I eventually narrowed down the lion I wanted to stick with (blue). From there I found that the game was actually quite challenging after the first level or two as the difficulty ramps up quite quickly and the boss was much harder than I could handle. I soon started again on the difficult setting below and found that to be a little more fitting with the harder enemies. I did enjoy the battles, each enemy requires a slightly different tactic to defeat; though you will mostly end up circling enemies and occasionally pouncing them for easy kills. I knew very little about Voltron before I played the game and unfortunately I feel I haven’t learnt as much as I was hoping for coming out of it which is a real shame as it looked like it could offer more in terms of Voltron related goodies. Some cartoon unlocks or bios would be enough for someone to get interested in Voltron and check the series out. The lack of anything of that ilk feels like a missed opportunity.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.