Another video game based on a summer blockbuster. Yippee! Off the top of my head, I can only think of two movie-based video games that were any good: The recently released Spider-Man: The Movie, and a little FPS that may or may not have saved the N64 from slipping away into obscurity called Goldeneye. Men in Black 2: Alien Escape is by no means in the same league as Goldeneye, but it certainly isn't the steaming pile that most games based on movies turn out to be. MIB2 is fun while it lasts, but after you save the world once, there isn't much to keep you coming back.
The story in the game follows agents J and K as they pursue aliens who escaped off of a prison ship that crashed into the Earth. The bigger story is that J and K are not voiced by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and only sort of look like them. A goatee here and some extra wrinkles there blur the line between J, K, and the men who played them in the MIB movies. The voices wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so obvious that they were trying really hard to sound like Jones and Smith. Even Zed is voiced by a Rip Torn sound-alike who doesn't quite cut it. It would have been better if they either gave us different agents to play as (P and Q, for example) or got the real actors to do some voice work. These cheap knockoffs just don't cut the mustard and really only spoil the whole experience.
You are given the choice of using either J or K as you take on the scum of the universe. The only difference between the two is a slightly different arsenal, neither of which is all that much better than the other. There are only six weapons in the game, which is a disappointment, but you can collect powerups to give them a little more bang for your buck. The guns range from a standard blaster to a flamethrower to a fusion cannon. There isn't a Noisy Cricket though. What's up with that?
The gameplay in MIB2 is actually quite fun. You run around the levels in a third person perspective and just blast away at the dozens and dozens and dozens of enemies that spawn and respawn throughout the levels. There are very few moments in the game when you aren't shooting at something, so the action is fast and furious and rather satisfying. The sheer number of enemies the game throws at you at once is impressive. They appear behind you, ahead of you, on crates above you, all over the place. They fire at you in easily avoidable patterns, but the sheer number of enemies and the huge amount of plasma flying around adds a nice level of difficulty to the game. Certain enemies cause you to drop your weapon upgrades when they hit you, so you have to pick them all up again all the while avoiding the hail of gunfire from enemies. Powerups and "worm guys" that need saving are scattered throughout each level for you to find as well. Finding upgrades and blasting the hundreds of enemies can only be described as fun.
The levels you explore in the course of the adventure include a nuclear power plant and even the streets of New York City. There are only five levels, and each one is split into three chunks that each take only about ten minutes to complete. There is also a boss battle at the end of each level that can take anywhere between one and five minutes. If you do the math, you'll find that it takes you about three hours to beat the whole game. It is fun while it lasts, but the game is just too short. There is also a training mode and some "Making of MIB2: Alien Escape" stuff to unlock, but the unlockables aren't really worth the trouble. Once you play through the game once, you probably won't want to play it again, and that is the only real problem with MIB2.
Controlling J and K is a fairly easy, although limited, affair. You can't jump, other than a back flip of questionable usefulness, but you can roll out of the way, which also isn't that useful. You still get hit whether you roll or back flip out of the way, so I didn't bother to use them after about the first five minutes of the game. There is also a button to do a 180 turn that is somewhat disorienting at first, but becomes a useful tool later in the game. And that is about all you can do besides moving around and using your gun. Aiming your gun is a matter of pointing it in the general direction and firing, which will usually score a hit. You can lock onto enemies and deliver a charged up shot, but isn't worth the trouble against anything but a boss. Vertical aiming is automatic, so you don't have to worry when you spot an enemy flying around above you. The controls are simple, but suit the game.
Graphically, MIB2 gets the job done, but doesn't go above and beyond to give us a fantastic visual experience. The levels are fairly simple, but they look good enough. You are usually running through them so fast you don't notice, though. The aliens are all different but, again, you are blasting at them and running through them so fast you can't take the time to admire the fact that each species is unique and detailed. You just end up classifying them as "red", "blue", "green", "garbage man", "brain thing", "spider thing" and the always annoying "flying thing". An absolutely great graphical touch is that all of the enemies explode into blue or green or orange goop a la Mikey from the first Men in Black movie. It is pretty darn satisfying to turn alien scum into gibs. The weapon effects are bright and colorful and look pretty good. Overall, the graphics are pretty decent.
The sound, on the other hand, is pretty crappy. The Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Rip Torn sound-alikes are trying too hard to match the nuances of each actor and they just come across as fake and forced and hurt the overall experience. The weapons make pretty generic sounding blaster/laser noises that we have heard before. There is music, I guess, but you don't notice it at all while playing through the game. Overall, the sound is a major disappointment.
Men in Black 2: Alien Escape is a surprisingly enjoyable game. Featuring fast, exciting, and satisfying gameplay, it is simply a blast to play through. But once you beat the game, there isn't much to keep you coming back. It looks good and controls well enough, but three hours just isn't enough gameplay to warrant a purchase. To someone who loves shooters or is a big MIB fan, it might almost be worth the $29.99 price tag, but I would recommend renting it before you decide to buy it. MIB2 is definitely a solid rental for anyone who wants some mindless shooting action for an evening.