The idea of a boy capable of transforming into wildly different forms, each with special abilities, is ideal fodder for game design: Kid Chameleon did it nearly twenty years ago, but Ben 10 Alien Force: Rise of Hex revives the template with a few welcome tweaks.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the titular hero, Ben Tennyson possesses a magical device known as the Omnitrix that allows him to transform into different aliens, a power he uses to defeat his sworn enemy Hex. Predictably you don’t need to follow the series to keep up with the game’s storyline or characters, as everything is explained pretty clearly in still image cutscenes.
At first Ben can only access two of his aliens, with each subsequent level introducing another available transformation and its abilities. It eases you into the game nicely, with body-swapping done via a simple radial menu and three buttons used for various powers, and clear design means you’re rarely at a loss for which form to use in which situation. With powers ranging from flight to climbing and brute strength to growing vines, there’s ample opportunity for varied gameplay, which is why it disappoints when that promise isn’t fulfilled.
Despite introducing a new form every level, most of the level structure comes down to switch puzzles: activating them in the right order to move platforms or open barriers is a huge part of the gameplay, with some forms having their own individual switch types. It’s not that the puzzles are poorly designed, but after a few levels you’ll likely tire of facing another level full of switches.
In the graphical stakes it’s clear and mostly well-animated, with only the repetitive stage settings bringing it down: the first half-dozen levels are the same factory, for example. There’s no lack of detail, and overall the graphics are decent, which is more than you can say for the music: repetitive, tuneless dirges that you’ll want to switch off. Thankfully the sound effects are far better, with characters proudly declaring their victories through a smattering of voice samples; not enough to grate, but enough to add some personality to proceedings.
Experienced gamers shouldn’t have many difficulties finishing the main Story mode in a couple of hours, but after that there’s Time Attack and Survival modes; welcome bonuses in an otherwise strictly linear game.
If you’re a fan of Ben 10 and don’t mind an imbalanced switch puzzle-to-platforming ratio, you could do a lot worse than download Rise of Hex. The variety of transformations papers over a lot of the game’s more repetitive elements, and although the story mode is over in a few hours the Survival and Time Attack additions extend its lifespan. You’re left with a competent puzzle platformer that tends to satisfy rather than entertain.