Video Game Review: Voltron: Defender of the Universe


Genre: Arcade Adventure

Developer: THQ

Platforms: XBox 360, Playstation 3

Synopsis: Space Explorers will take advantage of each Lion’s unique weaponry and strengths as they join forces both online in seamless 1-5 player co-op modes, and offline with 1-2 players to battle fierce Robeasts and a number of other familiar adversaries.

Also available today on Xbox LIVE Arcade is Voltron gear for players’ avatars, including a free Voltron t-shirt, Voltron wings, and five Lion pets – each with different animations. Watch out! The Black Lion’s got an electrifying bite and the red one has been known to cough up fireballs.

Voltron fans have been the neglected stepchildren in the retro-pop revival that’s been going strong for the past several years. Recently things look to be turning around, with a new movie on the horizon and a comic book by Dynamite Entertainment; it looks like the 5 Lions and their fans are finally getting the respect they deserve. THQ looks to do it’s part to bring some respect to the Voltron franchise with Voltron: Defender of the Universe, a DLC game available on XBox Live for 800 Microsoft Points and Playstation Network for $9.99

The developers did some things very right in this endeavor. Voltron is a cornerstone of 80’s pop culture and THQ uses the nostalgia engine built into the franchise to enhance the arcade aspects of this game. Players tear through Voltron‘s galaxy solo as one of the 5 lions or co-op with up to 5 players  across a three act story, that is enhanced by scenes from the classic cartoon series. A particularly awesome touch is the addition of Peter Cullen’s classic narration when pausing and resuming the game.

The game play itself isn’t for everyone. It’s the kind of repetitive and formulaic platform action that we left behind when arcades died, and is comprised mostly of kill, kill, kill, checkpoint, kill some more, and end it with a boss battle. the monotony of this is broken up a few times by escort missions and defend-the-base scenarios, but even these don’t deviate too far from the main objective which is, “kill everything that fraks with you.” If you spent any time feeding quarters into giant cabinets of 8-bit goodness, then it will feel familiar and you’ll be able to appreciate it, at least to a point. But there is definitely a lack of refinement to the game play that makes it easy to put down and forget about all together.

Where the game completely drops the ball is in the boss battles. After kicking tail in a lion across four stages you finally get to form Voltron and slice up some Robeasts up with your blazing sword, right? Well, kinda. You watch Voltron form with some thumbstick promps and then enter a turn-based battle where you and the Robeast trade blows in a series of basic quicktime events. Why, THQ? Players have been committing mass kicking demon-alien tail across a planet with the expectation that we’d get to control Voltron in a fighter-style battle. The turn-based events could have been fun if they had been implemented into the combat; on its alone, it’s frustrating and lazy.

If you grew up watching Voltron and spent countless hours haunting arcades in the 80’s, then there is a bit of nostalgic charm to Voltron: Defender of the Universe that will hold your attention for a little while. But that charm only carries the game so far and when it wears off what is left is a repetitive, and sometimes frustrating mess.

I give Voltron: Defender of the Universe Two out of Five Stars.

You can pick up Voltron: Defender of the Universe on XBox Live for 8oo Microsoft Points and PSN for $9.99.

Brandon Johnston
Written by Brandon Johnston

Brandon is a Reporter, Critic, Tornado Alley Correspondent, Technomancer, and Book Department Editor for SciFi Mafia®. When he's not writing for SciFi Mafia®, he's busy being a dad, a novelist, and a man with more hobbies and interests than is healthy for any one person to have.