The entertainment industry is just that: an industry. And the objective of any industry is to make money. Which is why entertainment people sometimes make cutesy versions of adult or all-ages things in hopes of expanding their (paying) audience to include children. We’ve seen it with The Muppets and Muppet Babies, with the Loony Tunes and Tiny Tunes, and now we’re seeing it with Earth Defense Force: World Brothers (PlayStation 4, Switch, PC), a cartoony take on the titular third-person sci-fi shooter series. But by doing more than just making it LEGO-fied, the good people at Yuke’s who made this goofy gun game have managed to make something that’s as fun as the previous ones, regardless of your age.
For those unfamiliar with the Earth Defense Force series,
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers casts you as a soldier in a never-ending war against aliens who’ve think the best way to conquer Earth is to make ants, spiders, and other bugs so large that they’re the ones stepping on us. But the E.D.F. games aren’t just inspired by such ’50s sci-fi monster movies as Them, they also take inspiration from ’90s arcade shooters in how simple and mindless and ridiculously over-the-top they can be.
As for Earth Defense Force: World Brothers, the most obvious change is in its visuals, which swap the former installment’s ’90s “low-res but wish we were hi-res” graphics for an intentionally pixilated and blocky approach. Kind of like if Yuke’s decided to remake the first E.D.F., 2003’s Monster Attack, but then someone in marketing said, “Minecraft is popular, can it be Minecraft?”
Thankfully, Earth Defense Force: World Brothers isn’t that cynical of a cash grab. Far from it. For starters, it takes advantage of its blocky world by making it possible to fall off the edge to your death (insert your own “fuck Flat Earthers” joke here).
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers also somewhat changes your focus, though only slightly, by having your objective be to not just clear the city of all aliens and insects, but to rescue injured E.D.F. agents as well. This doesn’t just earn you a good grade on your annual performance review, though; it also gives you someone else to play as. When playing this co-op — which works offline and on — saving a comrade gives you the option to play as that person when you start any later missions. And while this is also the case when you play E.D.F.:W.B. solo, you have the added benefit of not being limited to one character at a time. Instead, you start missions with up to four characters you can switch between on the fly.
Of course, it helps that the different characters are somewhat different.
While you unlock new weapons for them all the use, individual characters have their own skills and rechargeable special attacks. The Operator, for instance, has a powerful shot he can build to, while the Tactical Officer has a jetpack. Granted, some of the characters are (fittingly) cartoonish caricatures — like the Mexican man who yells “TEQUILA” as a battle cry — though as is so often the case, it’s the serious soldiers who really get the job done.
It’s just too bad your enemies in Earth Defense Force: World Brothers aren’t as specialized. Sure, some have their own special attacks — the spiders, for instance, can shoot webs your way — but they are equally vulnerable. Rifles do as much damage to giant spiders as they do giant ants, and the same is true for laser guns and other weapons.
Of course, that changes when, towards the end of missions, the aliens stop using insects and send giant robots after you. Or someone who looks suspiciously (and legally actionably) like a certain huge movie star we won’t name. They, obviously, take more than a few shots to take down.
It also helps that your insect enemies in Earth Defense Force: World Brothers not only always attack in large numbers, but also don’t wait their turn or only come at you from one direction. And that not only includes from the left and right, but above as well; like real bugs, the big ones in this game can climb up surfaces. Which, in this case, are the sides of large buildings. Good thing your guns have unlimited ammo, and that your radar is advanced enough to tell you when your enemies are not just to the left and right of your, but above you as well.
All of which makes Earth Defense Force: World Brothers…
as fun as previous installments, especially if you’re a fan of ’50s monster movies and ’90s shooters — or other combinations of the two like Destroy All Humans! Though it is pretty mindless, the firefights are still frantic and exciting, the people you have to rescue are nicely spread out, and the enemies are not only numerous, but they work well together; you never see a giant spider and a giant ant fighting over who gets to step on you.
Unfortunately, not every aspect of Earth Defense Force: World Brothers works so well. For starters, not all of the playable characters are created equal; one of them literally brought a knife to a gun fight. More annoyingly, many of the guns take a long time to reload, time you may not have when a swarm of giant ants is looking at you like you’re a potato chip someone dropped on the ground.
Shooter fans might also find the controls to be a bit lacking…at first. For some weird reason, the default layout has you using the right trigger to shoot, and the right bumper to aim down the barrel of your gun. Yeah, have fun with that; I’m switching to the fourth option, which makes the left trigger the one to aim like God intended.
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers also does this truly terrible thing where you can’t turn the music off, you can only turn it down really low (from 100 to 10). Granted, it does get somewhat drowned out by all the shooting — and you yelling in terror because you frickin’ hate spiders — but still, it’s just dumb. Doubly so since the music is terrible.
Then there are the technical glitches, like ants who get stuck in the crevasses of buildings. Or when the aforementioned huge movie star broke a basic law of physics — specifically, the one about how objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time — by casually walking through one of the Egyptian pyramids without leaving so much as a scratch. Oh, no, this has got to go.
Yet despite these irritations,
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers still manages to be a goofy and fun shooter, especially, as I said, if you like ’50s sci-fi, ’90s video games, or, obviously, the previous Earth Defense Force games. Sure, if you thought the previous E.D.F.s were too silly or simplistic, and were hoping they’d finally take this alien invasion seriously, well, sorry. Call Of Duty: Bug Ops it ain’t. But if you got a kick out of those old movies and games, and don’t mind that this one is as adorable as a Baby Gonzo, you’ll find this to be a rather engaging blood-, er bug-bath.