Phineas and Ferb just might be the two most inventive kids in the history of childhood. For them, repairing time machines and building amazing roller coasters are all in a day's work, and it's this propensity for invention, as well as the unpredictable adventures that go along with it, that makes their cartoon fun to watch. Unfortunately, that inventive spirit is sorely lacking in Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension. This platformer for kids recycles the same few standard elements with exasperating frequency, making this interdimensional trek an uncharacteristically tedious adventure for the intrepid duo.
Phineas, Ferb and their pet platypus Perry (AKA Agent P) have been stranded in an alternate dimension by a more sinister version of Dr. Doofenshmirtz than the one who resides in their home dimension. The three must now make their way from one dimension to another and collect batteries to power up their pocket otherdimensionator so that they can get home. Unfortunately, Across the 2nd Dimension just sets up the story briefly at the beginning and then spends little time developing it. Almost none of the clever writing that the cartoon is known for is present here. Phineas, Ferb, and the rest of the crew are interesting and likable characters, but you wouldn't know that from playing this game.
The characters here are short on personality, but at least the visuals pick up some of the slack. You travel through five dimensions, each of which has its own distinct look. The sand-colored platforms and ancient Egyptian environmental details of one dimension sharply contrast the moody purples and vibrant pinks of the surreal musical realm that follows. You also travel through a spooky dimension in which you hop across the tops of floating skulls and avoid being crushed by massive gravestones, and a cheery mechanized wonderland of toys, where platforms are rotated on Ferris wheels and huge googly-eyed clown faces send giant snowballs rolling out into the world.
Unfortunately, this visual variety isn't matched by the gameplay. Instead, Across the 2nd Dimension runs out of ideas fast and then repeats the same few situations and minigames so frequently that playing it quickly starts to feel like you're playing the same short game over and over and over. You can switch among Phineas, Ferb, and Agent P at any time with a tap of the touch screen. You frequently need to do so to take advantage of a character's special abilities. For instance, only Phineas and his baseball launcher can trigger distant switches; Ferb's electricity ray is necessary for powering certain platforms and stunning certain robots; and Agent P can use his butt-stomp to press buttons and his grappling hook to yank shields from enemies. There's never any confusion about which character to use to overcome a given obstacle; when you're near something that requires a specific character's skills, he gives a polite little wave on the touch screen.
But this range of abilities fails to infuse the game with any sense of variety. As these three characters, you make easy leaps across platforms and are frequently stopped in enclosed areas where you must defeat a number of easy enemies before you can proceed. It's all basic to the point of tedium, and it never evolves. Getting trapped in an enclosed area and shooting a bunch of robots with Phineas' baseball launcher in the fourth dimension plays out identically to how it does in the first dimension. And the same hazards are recycled with mind-numbing frequency. For instance, as you progress through stages, you're regularly stopped when three turrets appear in the background. Before you can advance, you need to destroy those turrets, which is a simple and time-consuming matter of repeatedly shooting them. You can take cover from their fire by standing behind barriers, though even if they shoot you, the consequences are negligible, thanks to the tremendous amount of damage you can withstand and your ability to carry a number of spare health packs with you at all times. Moments like this are tolerable the first time, but the game trots them out so often that they become excruciating chores. Even young players who are diehard fans of the series are sure to find that the repetition and simplicity saps any chance for excitement from this adventure.
The only brief respite from that tedium can be found in one stage in each of the game's first four dimensions. These stages are each unique; one sees you steering a chariot, crashing into enemies to collect batteries and leaping over obstacles in the road. Another is a side-scrolling shooter. These levels aren't great by any stretch, but the gameplay that makes up all of the other stages in the game gets so tiresome that any brief change of pace is welcome. These four stages also make up the game's multiplayer component, which is accessible via download play and supports up to four players. It's a thoroughly unsatisfying option, though. You play through the selected stage separately from your competitors, and at the end, you see who collected the most batteries. That's all there is to it.
Reaching the end of this adventure takes about five hours or so, but it feels a lot longer. Collectibles and optional objectives attempt to offer some incentive to return to these bizarre dimensions, but the crushing repetition and complete lack of challenge mean that just finishing each area once is way more than enough. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension is an uninspired game that doesn't do its inventive heroes justice by a long shot.