For those of us who can't handle the grown-up action of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, THQ delivers Marvel Super Hero Squad, the game of the television show of the toy line.
In Marvel Super Hero Squad, tiny cartoon versions of your favorite Marvel heroes and villains race to collect Infinity Fragments in order to either forge them into the Infinity Sword and take over the world, or prevent that very occurrence from happening. The storyline is ripped directly from The Super Hero Squad Show on Cartoon Network, itself based on Hasbro's line of superdeformed action figures. Once you finish story mode, the game also features a Battle Mode that allows up to four players to step into the boots, shoes, spandex, or bare feet of their favorite Marvel characters and beat the living daylights out of each other.
As enticing as that all sounds, Marvel Super Hero Squad is still a game aimed at children. Does that mean that only children will enjoy it? Read on, true believer.
Strange Tales: Marvel Super Hero Squad is a kiddy game, but the plot and the way missions are split up is very reminiscent of the way multi-character team-up events were once traditionally treated by Marvel Comics. An Infinity Crystal is shattered in the initial chapter, and then subsequent chapters feature individual heroes - Hulk, Wolverine, Falcon, Iron Man, Thor, and Silver Surfer - as they fight through countless enemies in order to retrieve the fragments before Dr. Doom and his henchmen do. Each chapter is distinct and tailored to the hero involved - Thor fights his brother Loki in Asgard; the Silver Surfer is transported through alternate dimensions; Falcon has to do a lot of flying; and the Hulk just wants ice cream. Okay, maybe the last one was a stretch.
The Squadron Supreme: They may be tiny, but there sure are a lot of them. Between the story mode and the battle mode, Marvel Super Hero Squad features a nice selection of the best and worst that Marvel has to offer. You've got your core hero group, with Ms. Marvel barking orders from behind her S.H.I.E.L.D. desk; a motley cast of villains including Dr. Doom, Mole Man, MODOK, Loki, Crimson Dynamo, and Sabretooth; and then you've got supporting characters like Storm, Invisible Woman, and The Thing. If you were looking for a game with tiny little Marvel characters running about, hitting things, then this is your game.
Secret Wars: Once you unlock all of the playable characters and finish story mod, you're left with quite a passable little brawler for 1-4 players. It's a watered-down Super Smash Bros. with 3D movement, a nice selection of tiny Marvel characters and arenas, and the ability to fight in free-for-all or squad-based battles. It isn't perfect, but there are far worse things you could do with four friends and four Wii remotes.
Funny Pages: While the majority of the humor in Marvel Super Hero Squad is aimed at the much younger set, it does have its fair share of funny moments. The characters are versions of their grown-up counterparts with their flaws exaggerated to humorous effect. Take the Silver Surfer, for instance. He's long been one of Marvel's most long-winded, introspective characters, which in the MSHS universe translates into a Keanu Reeves-sounding surfer dude who thinks really deep thoughts. Some of the dialogue is rather witty as well, such as when Magneto quips, "You interrupted me while I was erasing hard drives just for fun." That's what I would do if I was Magneto.
The Vile Voice Acting: I realize the game is based off a cartoon which in turn is based on a toy line for toddlers, but even a toddler would wince at some of the voice acting in Marvel Super Hero Squad. It starts with Mole Man and MODOK sharing the same high-pitched squeaky voice and then goes downhill from there. When Stan Lee is one of the most dynamic voice actors in the game, you know something isn't quite right.
The Chaotic Camera: The camera in Marvel Super Hero Squad does grant a certain amount of control to the player, but it isn't quite enough to keep from getting hung up on scenery or stuck behind your character at times when that isn't a good place for it to be. It's also a very large pain during some of the more delicate platforming moments in the game, when you can't quite tell where you'll need to jump to avoid being plunged into molten lava.
The Enigmatic Easiness: Once again, Marvel super Hero Squad is a kid's game, so don't expect any real challenge here. Even when you uncheck Easy Mode, which seems to be checked by default before each mission, you can easily breeze through the game's story mode in a few hours. If you are a small child, it's probably perfect. If you are reading Kotaku, chances are you are not a small child, or your parents are really irresponsible.
The key thing to remember about this review is that I am a 36-year-old man, and therefor not the target demographic for Marvel Super Hero Squad. This is not a game that was developed with the 36-year-old man in mind. I am also a gigantic comic book geek, however, so I can still appreciate the title as a method for introducing a younger audience to the heroes that helped make me the slightly twisted individual I am today, and while some of the things Marvel has done to cater to the younger audience border on blasphemy in my eyes, I'm confident that those younger Marvel fans will eventually graduate to grown-up superheroes (really?), looking back on their time with Marvel Super Hero Squad and thinking how stupid they were back then.
Until that day, Marvel Super Hero Squad serves as a fine entry into the world of comic book heroes for the younger set, but once you get past the point when you start adding "teen" to the end of your age it's probably time for something meatier.
Marvel Super Hero Squad was developed by Blue Tongue and published by THQ for the Wii on October 20th. Retails for $39.99 USD. Additional versions exist for the PSP, PS2, and Nintendo DS. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through story mode and played through multiple fights in battle mode.
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