For those not familiar with the Voltron: Defender of the Universe, here's a synopsis to clarify the terms used in this review:
Voltron: Defender of the Universe takes place in a future where the earth has formed an alliance with the 'good' planets of the solar system. Enter Zarkon, an alien prince with ambitions of universal domination, and his sorceress - who can turn mild bosses into robot / beast hybrids called Robeasts. In response the new threat, the earth alliance had a team of space explorers retrieve Voltron - a super robot formed by linking five cats.
Now on to the review itself...
Voltron: Defender of The Universe is yet another in a long line of twin-stick shooters available for download and - save for the license - does little to separate itself from the pack.
Voltron presents its story through short clips taken from the Voltron cartoon - which itself was derived from an anime called Beast King GoLion. While the clips and accompanying music invoke a sense of nostalgia for gamers who grew up on the 80s series, there's little in it for younger gamers who have been spoiled by the higher quality of modern anime. In addition, the actual gameplay doesn't give you the feeling of piloting a Voltron lion - or Voltron himself.
To start the game, you pick from one of the five lions to take on a few stages of running and gunning before taking on a robeast. Each lion is touted to have its own strengths based on a status page in selection. However, in practise each one handles virtually the same. Each one has a special attack, can leap to catch flying enemies, and - as you would expect from a robot lion - moves rather stiffly on the ground.
Each level takes place on a distinctly different planet: Arus - Voltron's home world, Yadle - a desolate world, and Doom - a planet ravaged by war. Although there are a couple of times the game breaks the "shoot everything in sight" monotony with a bit of hostage saving and defending a tower, the stage-clearing gameplay quickly becomes repetitive and any feeling of nostalgia you had from watching a few seconds of the cartoon is gone.
If not, it will be when you fight the end of level boss.
A boss battle in Voltron plays out like this. First, you blast most of the robeast's health off as Lions. Then, as luck would have it, your comrades show up and you form Voltron. "Now it's a level playing field," you might say? Not quite.
Once Voltron is formed, you end up with one of the most tedious boss battles in recent history. Voltron and robeast take turns striking each other in a quick time event driven battle. To attack you pick one of four moves, then push a button at the right moment to attack.
If you time it wrong, your attack fails; likewise you have to push a random button to defend. Once the robeast's health is drained, you mash a button to form the blazing sword and deliver the most underwhelming final blow in existence.
The game is also very short. You will be able to finish it within a couple of hours and, at 800 Microsoft Points, you can get a much better return on your investment elsewhere.
While the single player is a repetitive drag, online co-op allows you and four friends to play as the full team on Xbox Live. Unfortunately, local play is limited to two players.
If you want a Voltron game - or a Voltron themed twin-stick shooter - desperately enough, this is all there is on offer. If you're a fan of the series and want a game that delivers, go watch the show while you wait for a different Voltron game - one where you have more control over the super robot than simply pushing buttons on cue.