Review: Voltron: Defender of the Universe

For us older gamers, Voltron: Defender of the Universe was an iconic cartoon of the mid-80’s. Featuring five members of the Voltron Force, their lions combined into the giant robot known as Voltron, who then took on the evil forces and their Robeasts. WIth Voltron returning to TV last summer, it was only a matter of time before a game came out. THQ made a great decision in what followed.

A twin-stick shooter, Voltron: Defender of the Universe let’s you pilot one of the five different lions, each with varying stats (armor, strength, speed, etc.). If you choose to do so, you can also team up with friends in both online and offline co-op. People are actually playing, too (if you read some of my previous reviews, a big complaint is not being able to find a game online), so finding a game is a quick and painless procedure.

Kicking nostalgia into high-gear, the game features a scene from the cartoon to open the story. You’ll start your adventure on Arus, which the cartoon will set up. Spanning across four stages, there are three worlds total, with the last stage being a boss battle. The game progresses at a good pace on the medium difficulty setting (Hard is unlocked after finishing the game), with more and more powerful enemies coming to the battlefield on a regular basis.

Like most twin-stick shooters, the controls are simple; move with the left analog stick, fire in the direction you want by using the right analog stick. A “pounce” attack can be performed by hitting R2 (reviewed on the PS3), which helps with flying opponents and deals radiant damage to enemies around it too (the Black lion deals electric damage around your pounce attack). A melee swipe can be executed by hitting the R1 or L1 triggers as well, but I rarely used those when I played the game.

The graphics don’t only look great, but each world has it’s own diverse look to it. Everything shimmers and glistens and when you shoot through some objects, they break apart. A minor detail I absolutely loved (and showed the developers attention to detail, as well) was the paw prints left behind by your lion. Again, it simply looks great, and coming from a TV franchise transitioning to a game, you don’t expect the best, but Voltron delivers.

Boss fights start like a normal stage. They have an array of moves they use against you, and you avoid and attack as your lion. When their health bar is depleted, a cartoon of Voltron forming begins. I’m assuming this is for leaderboard purposes, but you can “put together” Voltron by following on screen analog stick prompts to get a higher score. I completed one perfectly, and outside of scoring a nice chunk of points, I gained no sort of advantage in the following combat sequence. Also, I missed some in one of the scenes, and I wasn’t penalized for it.

The next part of the battle is Voltron versus Robeast, and it is a simple quick time battle. You choose an attack, then a bar shows up with a moving highlighted section. In order to successfully do the attack, you have to hit X when a line gets to the highlighted area. If you miss, you take damage via a reversal from your opponent. During their turn, you have to hit the prompted button in a quick fashion to perform a counter-attack of your own. Again, it’s rather simple, but the animations for the two characters are fun to watch as they battle one another.

Voltron’s form of collectibles (something games just can’t seem to get away from it seems) is rescuing survivors. Scattered around the levels will be little groups of people with a highlighted blue ring around them. Have your lion run over to them, and rescue complete. During my playthrough, I found quite a few, and nothing unlocked as I found them (though there is a trophy for getting 100).

The one thing this game needed was some sort of progression or character development. The game gets rather stale after a few levels pass and you can’t upgrade anything. It’s great in small doses, but the longer you play, the more you get that feeling something is missing. Which may be why the game is so short. It can be completed in a few hours, but I had to break it up across a few nights because of this issue. A hair more creativity would have easily raised the bar on this one and put it into a whole new category. But as it stands, it’s simply a short, albeit fun, trip down memory lane. Without friends to play with, I can’t see this being more than a single play-through for me.

In it’s category, Voltron plays right and looks great, but it’s that little something it is missing that keeps it from standing out as more than just a nostalgic trip into your childhood. Any big fan of the series would be foolish not to pick this up. But if not, there are other twin-stick shooters that offer more depth and replayability than Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

Pros:

  • great graphics, and attention to detail
  • online play and local co-op
  • original cartoon cut-scenes during load screens
Cons:
  • very short 
  • no upgrade system or anything else of the short to add to replayability.
Score: 3*/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.