Voltron: Defender of the Universe Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox Live Arcade
Release date:
November 30, 2011
Behaviour Interactive
1 - 2 local; 1 - 5 online

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Get ready to assemble.

Review by Nick Vlamakis (Email)
December 10th 2011

If you've never seen the classic Voltron series (many of you were just getting around to being born when the show debuted in the States), but you're a fan of giant robots or multiplayer shooters, listen up. If you have seen the cartoon and are a fan - well - I'll give you the short version: go ahead and buy this game. At just ten bucks, it's a perfect companion to any other memorabilia you might have, and it'll probably keep your company entertained for half an evening.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe is meant to be played as a "score attack" shooter.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe, the game, is an excellent introduction to the beloved animated series. It not only allows you to control each of the five star members of the Voltron Force, it moves the the story along using clips from the original show. It's so authentic that when you pause the game a voice anounces that "Voltron will be back after these messages." No lie.

Voltron, of course, is an anthropomorphic metal giant composed of five independent Lion robots. Each Lion is piloted by a trained warrior and each comes with its own weapons, strengths, and weaknesses. No matter which one you select, you will have a ranged weapon, a melee attack, and a pounce that can grab enemies out of the sky and smash them to the ground. When not jammed together in Voltron form, some of the tin cats are better against armored foes, some are more useful against groups, some are more durable, some are more agile. You also get a special attack; these range from an offensive shield to a huge cone of lightning you can sweep around you.

The Lions play similarly enough that once you've played with one you can easily adapt to the rest. The differences, however, are significant enough that you will almost certainly have one or two favorites. The gameplay is easy enough for newcomers to pick up, and the Lions aren't forced to be on the same screen most of the time, so everyone can play at his own pace. Players share the same pool of lives, though, so don't be too reckless.

The main part of the game is a free-roaming overhead shooter. It's pretty manageable on the default difficulty, even when playing alone, but it does get a little crazy in the last stages. Up to two players can participate locally, while up to five can play online. Each person chooses a Lion and runs wild, trying to stay alive and score as many points as possible. Mixing up your attacks and saving groups of stranded civilians (treated as collectibles) will enable you to score higher, with the whole group ranked by score at the end of each level.

And that leads to a very important point: Voltron: Defender of the Universe is meant to be played as a "score attack" shooter, and you'll be much happier with it if you realize going in that it isn't an adventure game.

There are a couple of flying stages, also displayed from an overhead perspective, but these are the weakest part of the game. They don't really distinguish themselves, and they're almost like the grounded parts with a more limited range of motion

Finally, there are three Voltron battles. The "let's assemble" part of the cartoon plays, during which you have the opportunity to move the left analog stick in certain ways to boost your score. Then you stand tall as Voltron itself, facing off against one of three gigantic Robeasts. Battle in this mode consists of alternating turns. You pick from one of four displayed Voltron attacks then try to stop a meter within a moving hot spot to determine if the attack connects. When the Robeast attacks, you have to push a randomly selected button within a generous time limit to determine whether you dodged the attack. Get the enemy's life low enough and you can mash A to form the Blazing Sword and end that sucker. That's pretty much it, though there is a chance you will score a critical hit if your timing is perfect. Hits, misses, and perfects for all the attack types get their own unique animations.

In multiplayer Voltron mode, players take turns starting the attack. One person chooses the weapon and the rest of the group aims it. That's really the only part of the game where you rely on others to be paying attention, assuming no one keeps using up all the lives in the shooting modes. Even though everyone's on the same team, Voltron: Defender of the Universe is a competition, not a cooperative effort. When you're in you're Lion, it's time to prove you're the king of the jungle.

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