With his chiseled physique, a strong, aggressive outlook on life and an overbearing obsession with power tools, Thor is pretty much your typical man’s man. For countless centuries the son of Odin has been the creator of storms and the protector of mankind. In recent decades he’s been marvelled at in his own comic, and in the past few months Thor has starred in his own film and obligatory tie-in video game. It is the classic Norse tale. However, as it tends to be with stories that start in the heavens, there will always be something to bring them back down to Earth, and Nintendo 3DS’ Thor: God of Thunder manages to do just that.
Though the cover art hosts the same fierce faces and iconography of the movie, Thor: God of Thunder is keen to separate itself from its celluloid cousin. Not content with the challenge of producing an entirely separate narrative to the plot of the film, developers Red Fly Studio have been keen to produce a title that bears more than a few similarities to the iterations of the game that have appeared on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In that respect, Red Fly Studio’s intentions to make a more advanced handheld title are successful, and Thor: God of Thunder on 3DS is an age away from the side-scrolling version on DS.
Set across several different worlds, including our own, the muddled and murky plot of Thor: God of Thunder is directed with desperation rather than cohesion. Even now, I couldn’t tell you with much conviction what happens in the title or indeed why. Some of the mythology is ill explained and the relationships are never developed or reasoned. All I know is that the huge red demon setting things on fire wasn’t a good thing, and behind the well-drawn cut scenes and so-so voice acting it doesn’t take much to realise that this is not a thinking man’s 3D brawler.
In a strange way the plot suitably mirrors how Thor is presented for much of the game. He never comes across as the most intelligent of protagonists and when compared to his devious and well-versed brother, Loki, Thor’s caveman-like approach isn’t too endearing to the player. There is some heart and logic to his actions, but as an avatar he is pretty lifeless in personality. To be fair to the Neanderthal-esque god, though, Thor and his hammer, Mjölnir, have no need to sit down for friendly chats in the face of waves of enemies.
As the main crux of the game, fighting in Thor: God of Thunder is brawling by numbers. Melee moves are your standard mix of strong or light attacks and the usual close, mid and long range options are also present and correct. Despite this lack of variety in mechanics there is an extensive move set and combo list. This, when added to Thor’s godly prowess, does makes for some interesting and tactical play.
Several icons line the touch-screen, allowing Thor to call on his heavenly abilities to summon lightning and wind to confound and crumble his foes. These powered attacks quickly become the bread and butter of the brawler. Timed well, a lightning strike could stop a horde of overpowering foes, or a well-placed jet of wind could provide some much needed crowd control. These powers are also enhanced when combos reach certain levels, so putting together a strong melee routine to then finish with a bolt of lightning becomes second nature; it’s initially quite satisfying.
There is a grand sense of scale to much of what Thor can do and achieve alongside Mjölnir. Trolls that are twice his size flip into the air like slices of cheese and environments shatter at the slightest furrow of his Norse brow. The range of attacks - and several of his more destructive powers - do offer an interesting approach to battle, but even though it is pleasurable to string together a routine, they never feel necessary to win a fight.
After a time, all the pomp and spark about upgrading powers, unlocking more move sets and playing with tactics becomes turgid and repetitive. Enemies and environments start merging into one, and other than several flying sections there is nothing in Thor: God of Thunder that delicately changes and alters the pace. Levels feel relentless and unappetising when you come to know what to expect. Fights soon become forgetful, recycled affairs and the scenery that at first impressed quickly become tired and lifeless. Even the 3D effect, which is actually well implemented, is nothing but a pleasant addition and adds nothing to the experience.
It is a shame that often movie tie-in games don’t have the polish or verve to take them above or beyond their source material. It is commendable that Red Fly Studio have created a title that has steady systems of play, but it is an unmemorable experience. One which is littered with gameplay choices that on paper seem to offer a challenge but in practice are never well implemented or used to their best advantage.
An extensive skill set and plenty of encouragement to play tactically and create combos. However, all the ground work displayed early on never really delivers, leaving a flat and monotonous challenge.
It doesn’t look all too bad. Environments do tend to look a little recycled. 3D works well and is subtly used but, like much in the game, the fair intentions of the designers fail to add to the title at all.
Enemies squeal and yelp when they’re meant to and Thor grunts and bellows, all to a dramatic film score. Still, none of it really stands out as anything above average.
There is plenty in Thor: God of Thunder to see and do. The main campaign, though repetitive, lasts beyond four hours and each level can be replayed for collectables and upgrades after they have been completed. The cartridge also comes with a complete episode of the Avengers cartoon series, featuring our meat head protagonist. It might not be much of an experience but there is plenty to keep you distracted.
There is something solid and worthwhile in much of Thor: God of Thunder. It works as well as a brawler by numbers should. It also looks reasonably decent and has just enough to keep you moving from one location to another so that you can batter things all over again. However, Thor: God of Thunder is too much like its protagonist; unintelligent, bolshie and brash. There isn’t much here that will make you care for the characters or understand their plight. Combat quickly becomes a chore, despite early efforts to provide a test of skill and patience. As a movie tie-in it is a surprisingly well-polished title, but as a video game experience it lacks that spark and direction to take it further.