maanantai 22. syyskuuta 2014

REVIEW - Marvel Super Hero Squad | DS | 2009

GENRE(S): Action / Beat 'em up
RELEASED: October 20, 2009 (DS, PSP)
DEVELOPER(S): Blue Tongue Entertainment, Halfbrick Studios (DS), Mass Media (PS2, PSP)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. 18 months, a dazzling total of 60 games - the Marvel marathon has come to its finale. Now we're not even looking for a perfect game, we've learned much during this time and it's safe to assume that there isn't a Marvel game good enough in all of history to provide for a truly epic climax to this longest VGMania marathon there ever was (or ever will be). In accordance to my personal code, let's look up something as strange as possible instead. The Marvel Super Hero Squad is actually a toy line for small children, launched by Hasbro in 2006 or 2007 to re-introduce Marvel characters as family-friendly favourites as opposed to their original (and film) counterparts, whose adventures were mostly written for young adults. The toys were quite a hit and an animated series based on them premiered on Cartoon Network in September 2009; as expected, the first of many video game licenses leeching off its success came a month later.

Man, this is just so wrong.

Dr. Doom and his Lethal Legion are in search of the Infinity Sword's missing pieces, which alone are quite enough to grant their bearers immense power. The Super Hero Squad runs in to save Super Hero City. HERO UP! ...Eh...

At least the game doesn't really
suffer from the touch screen at all.
Why are they doing this? I mean just about every cartoon writer and artist of the 21st century. To me, it all started with the first of the now various reimaginings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When I first heard that the heroes in a half shell were coming back, I was ecstatic beyond belief. At the age of 19, I dug up my old TMNT comic books, taped episodes of the old show, and even what I got left of the action figure collection I had, and rented the first two live-action movies for the hell of it. I watched the first episode of the 2003 show and I was furious at what they had done to my childhood heroes, and what they were selling them as to the new generation. Sure, it was closer to Eastman and Laird's original vision, but me and all of my old friends shared the same thought: the 1987 cartoon perfected the franchise. It was light-hearted and comical on the exact level it needed to be. How about all the crap that has come under Batman's fine name? On my account, that started reeling in even before the new TMNT, with Batman Beyond. I could never stand that show, even if it was done by people who knew their business. Now we're not just talking about action-oriented cartoons - how about Disney's newer shows, most of were essentially created to fill in the gaps on the Disney Channel? Those fucking American Dragons and Kim Possibles and the 3D Winnie the Pooh cartoon? GOD!

Here we have Super Hero Squad. So they had a toy line, that's OK - you can make any sort of toys out of anything and I personally don't mind, I'm not exposed to them. But a cartoon... really? Did you really need to make one? All these twisted, family-friendly caricatures of kick-ass superheroes moms and dads have known all their lives, and are now forced to watch or otherwise be exposed to? Why couldn't you just put the old cartoons (Spider-Man, X-Men...) on re-runs? Kids would've loved those, we should know! This generation's knowledge on classic comics evolves in the wrong order. They watch all that crap as kids, that's their perception of "classic". Then as they grow up, they might go into nostalgia mode and check out those old ones just for novelty's sake. "They're old", "they're obsolete", all that shit. "Why is TMNT so funny?" "Why is Wolverine so angry?" And if they're really out of it, they're asking "Who's Bruce Wayne? Who's Peter Parker?" It's not their fault, it's those fucking assholes who keep ruining this shit for us AND them. Things were so much better when I was growing up. And much more simple. Wolverine was Wolverine, not some ultra-heroic, wise-cracking bobblehead figure with a permanent smirk on his face.

Getting back to the harsh reality and accepting it, Marvel Super Hero Squad isn't such a bad game. It's just not fit for adults at all, and I don't think a possible adult audience ever crossed the developers' minds, which might explain why the game only came out on a couple of portable systems, the family-oriented Wii and the PS2 which was on life support at the time. It's a very simple, straightforward mixture of a beat 'em up and a platformer, which kinda reminds me of Lego games... when I'm at my least judgmental. (At least Lego is clear-cut parody, not an "alternative" or whatever the Super Hero Squad's supposed to be.) The level design is described as "maze-like"; you can rest assured, there are no mazes in this game. If a few more platforms to jump on than usual makes a maze, then sure. The music's either annoying or unmemorable, the most memorable thing when it comes to the sound are the corny "HERO UP!" or "LEEEEETHAL LEGION!!!" proclamations in the start of each stage. They seriously sound like something off a superhero parody (like Warner Bros.' old Duck Rogers cartoons) rather than good catchphrases for kids.

Thor and Doom go to church.
Despite its lack of appeal, the game could've been good, even by adult standards. It has good base controls and for once I like the idea of alternating between heroes and villains, 'cause it has a point; you'll be able to play any character in the game once you're done with the main mode, and quite like in the Lego games, all characters have different abilities; mostly cosmetic here though. The main mode is the Story Mode, which contains seven levels with a few stages each, starring a different character on a different mission with a boss battle looming at the end. The boss battles are designed quite like poor man's Smash Bros. - you are placed in a multi-layered level where you need to either beat the hell out of your opponent or hurl him/her out of the playfield enough times to drain 'em out of their extra lives. And this is what the Battle Mode is all about, but like I said, it's a very limited experience. Don't go expecting miracles, even the size of the very first Smash Bros. title. You have to make due with what you got.

L and R are both used for blocking, B is somewhat strangely the primary attack button, while Y unleashes a special attack which can be charged by holding the button. A is used for jumping, and X for a grapple, which mostly benefits you against shielded opponents. The touch screen is used only whenever your "super bar" is full; it allows you to work out a brief period of invincibility or a super attack that destroys most enemies around you. It's that simple in its entirety, and it would work if the game didn't get so boring so quickly. Despite allowing you to use a different character each level, the levels are lengthy as hell and there's a certain repeating pattern to all of them in both the shapes of the terrain and objectives. The enemies are almost exactly the same throughout the game. There are just some certain character-specific opponents to create an illusion of diversity.

It wasn't so long ago I replayed X-Men Origins: Wolverine - a really brutal, violent game starring Wolverine. Now for the "climax" of this whole long-ass marathon I played the first level of a polar opposite of a game using the same character... or some twisted caricature at least. Looking back, I probably should've done it the other way around... oh, well. The Marvel marathon's been a long and confusing journey as it is. There have been a lot of bad games, a lot of even worse games, some fairly good games, some almost great. So where does this last one stand? Let's cut it some slack: don't play it. Spare yourself. Let your kids play it if you're the most resilient collector, but make sure they know this has nothing to do with the real thing. It's not a bad game; it's a fairly good gameplay concept ruined with generic execution and one horrible license. They should've sticked to the toys, really.

+ Well, it has Thor... or something Thor-ish
+ The concept could've worked if they put a little more effort into it; Smash Bros. meets Marvel meets platformer

- The source material
- Both modes are only half baked

< 6.0 >

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