Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Superman Returns: The Videogame (Nintendo DS) Review

Superman returned earlier this year in his first full-length movie since the eighties, the film received mixed reviews from critics, but for the most part at least Superhero fans were able to enjoy it. Unfortunately this feeling has not been ported over to the videogame iteration (at least not on the DS). We are by no means comic book haters so when we got the chance to play Superman Returns on the DS we leapt at the chance, oh how wrongly placed our enthusiasm was...

Most if not all Superman games have had a history of mediocrity to downright 'crapiness', whilst some put this down to the franchise being cursed, a more logical explanation might be the problem of challenging an omnipotent character. Well not entirely omnipotent, but in the grand scheme of things there isn't much that can put a dent in the man of steel, so what then is the best course of action for making a video game? Well developers of Superman Returns, Santa Cruz Games and Tiburon have come up with a couple of potential solutions; one: impose ridiculous time limits and two: give the city of Metropolis where the game is set, a health bar of it's own. Although Superman is supposed to be 'faster than a speeding bullet', the game knocks that down a couple of notches in order to enforce said time limits, forcing Supes to focus on his other powers (unfortunately not very well, more on that later).

Screenshot for Superman Returns: The Videogame on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

On the surface these ideas may seem logical, but unfortunately the realisation and presentation is for the most part, appalling. The game is broken down into 25 different missions all of which are spread out over a board game-esque layout akin to the Mario Party series. It is here that the game starts on its downward spiral to disaster that not even Superman can prevent. Metropolis is split into said squares that Superman and his nemeses must traverse. At the beginning of each 'turn', the player (Superman) and his opponents are all allowed to move a certain number of squares around the board. The goal for any super-villains is to cause disasters that lowers Metropolis' health bar whilst Superman's job is of course to prevent these disasters. Movement is done via the touch screen, even though there is little need for it given that you can only move one square at a time anyway, something that could quite easily have been done with a button press.

Already we have stumbled across an issue, despite the game being based on the events from the recent movie; the developers have felt it necessary to include a plethora of Superman's previous foes from the comics to help extenuate the chaos. Whilst this might sound positive, especially for fans of the superhero; in reality each of the characters are introduced with very little explanation as to why they have been included at all. All the information the player gets is that each villain is out to be naughty and that you have to stop them. As fans of the comics will know, each of these bad guys have their own back stories that are complex and often intertwined, yet they are included without so much as a nod to their histories. Hardly a massive issue for an action based videogame you might say, but something extra would have been nice, if this is the first time you've heard of Mongul then you are going to have no idea what's going on at all (of course you probably won't care, so maybe it all works out in the end anyway).

Screenshot for Superman Returns: The Videogame on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Anyway, once you land on a disaster stage you are chucked into the barren world of Metropolis for your first taste of Supes almighty powers. Alas we don't refer to Metropolis as barren because it's been deserted on account of the impending danger, but rather because everything is so bland. Buildings are simplistic and blocky; streets are completely empty except for mission-sensitive objects such as the occasional pedestrian or venting pipeline. These missions generally take the form of some simple task like unmasking robots and destroying them with your heat vision, or locating explosive trucks with your X-ray vision and chucking them into space. Unfortunately you only get to use the powers that you need to complete the task you have been issued. Whereas the console versions of the game have been praised for a sense of freedom, the DS iteration takes the complete opposite route by forcing you to do exactly what it wants you to, and with a ridiculous time limit to boot.

It is this time limit that provides one of the games biggest nuisances. Most of the missions will only take a minute or two to complete if done correctly, but if you mess up even once or twice then the odds are you won't have enough time left to recover, and you guessed it; you fail. Rather than let you try again at your whim the game forces you to peruse some other disaster on the board. Perhaps even more annoying, though are the plot-sensitive missions that relate to the events from the film. Contrasting to other missions the game forces you to replay these missions indefinitely until you complete them. Of course none of this would be that bad if it weren't for the monumentally aggravating glitches and lackluster controls you are forced to put up with. For example, the first plot-sensitive mission entails rescuing the plane/rocket ship combo that is harboring Lois Lane. For this all you have to do is control direction and speed, simple, right? Wrong! As the plane spirals down to Earth panels and hatches fly off towards you preventing your ability to catch up and do your thing. Thanks to the ridiculous time limit, though, if you get hit by even one (and trust us you will) you lose so much distance that it becomes near enough impossible to catch up at all, and so you are forced to restart, again and again and again and... sigh.

Screenshot for Superman Returns: The Videogame on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Separate to the disaster stages are the boss battles. Finally, we murmured to ourselves, a bit of full-blown fighting action to give return at least some dignity to the greatest hero of all time. But wait, what is this? They've taken the core of every dance game out there and made it the basis for combat? Oh that's logical, after all no-one can really challenge Superman's might so they've made combat so awkward and irrelevant that the player can fail for him! Brilliant. So no matter who you are fighting, be it Braniac or Bizzarro, the same rules apply; tap A, B, X and Y at the correct times to initiate punches and kicks appropriately. This starts of as insanely difficult as you are forced to get your head around the location of the buttons in relation to their on-screen counterparts, but eventually moves to insanely easy as you get to grips with it and realise how very dull dance games are without music and dance mats...

So let's take a step back and examine exactly what we have here; first a turn-based, board-game-esque layout that does more harm than good. Then disaster missions that are so bare and dull in terms of gameplay and presentation that you're almost glad they only appear for a set time. Then on the other hand you have boss encounters that have so much potential only to be stripped down to a completely ridiculous form of combat that removes any element of 'wow that's cool!' in favor of repetitive monotony. Not to mention a plot so loosely held together by static cut scenes and practically non-existent music that you will either have no idea what is going on or you just won't care. Not even the Superman name could fool us into believing there is any decent content here, fair enough some sections could be fun if you were given a bit more time with them, but instead you're forced to rush through any enjoyable sections in fear of running out of time. If you really need to get yourself a Superman game this Christmas, do yourself a favor and pick up the slightly better console version (which unfortunately isn't available on the GameCube or the Wii...)

Screenshot for Superman Returns: The Videogame on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


Some sections are mildly entertaining but the overriding time limits force players to rush through these as quickly as possible to allow for pointless navigation of the 'board'.


Extremely bland environments, blocky character models and objects. Extremely unimpressive.


Hardly worth mentioning, the game doesn't even start with the Superman theme, if that isn't a sign of things to come we don't know what is...


25 missions sounds like a respectable number, and may even take a while to get through, but it will be for all the wrong reasons. Missions are frustrating and glitchy forcing you to replay sections you would rather steer clear of.

Cubed3 Rating

For those of you hoping Superman Returns could break the familiar cycle of rubbish Superman game after rubbish Superman game, you will be disappointed to hear that this is not the case. Everything that could have been enjoyable about this title is stuffed into the cracks between massive chasms of unintuitive controls, blocky graphics and uninspiring just about everything else. Superman fan or not you would do best to avoid this like some terrible plague.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

I was gonna get this game for my sister but chose Yoshi's Island DS instead. Good choice I suppose. Ah well. The graphics look decent :read:

twitter: @bensoutham

Yes, good choice, I think! Get your sister no licensing-crap, get her a good game!

How I hate Scooby Doo! He is not funny, he goes on my nerves. Above all he gets a crappy animated-scooby-doo-movie which is rubbish on top of Scooby Doo as such, who is... notfunnyandyouknowmywhining.
Why do you people even review such horrid license-crap? You can't be driven by the thought, that somewhere out there has to be a good license-game?
Then who has to review this shite? The one who can't run fast enough?

What brings me down the most is that these shite games earn a shitful of money, everyone buys this crap and the granny gets it for their children, which must play this utterly nonsense. Maybe that's why games make people aggressive. It's not God Of War, it's Scooby Of Evil, Chronicles of No-Good-Narnia and Harry Potter And The Missing Game Design.

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

Then who has to review this shite? The one who can't run fast enough?

I usual opt for the crap games, it can be quite fun sometimes. :P

If you review a decent game, especially a well-liked one, there is always the issue of people disagreeing with scores and whatnot.

With games like this there is no issue, which although means no debate, makes it easier to come to a decision on the score... because no-one cares. Smilie

I will be continuing my crap-tacular run later today with a review of Superman Returns on DS! Watch out for it! :P

Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >

*lol* you seem to be a masochist. Have fun then...

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

Superman Returns is a legend of a game thank you. Absolutely smashing.

twitter: @bensoutham

Wow, sounds bad.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Bloody hell Karn, good review, but it's not often I think someone's being too generous! :lol:

This is a travesty of a game, sadly... :-(

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Its a movie game.

Its made by EA.

What was anyone expecting?

Avoid Games Like the Plague, productivity++

Cheers Raz, I must admit I added a point because it's Superman... how depressing. :D

What was anyone expecting?


My expectations were to high. :(

Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >

wow... If I didn't know better - and you said to me, that you like reviewing this crap - I would pity you greatly! This Score is very generous...

But it's fun to read, sorry for being sadistical...

I begin to think: Who is there, even at dumb EA, letting this game pass through QA? What is it with movie-ports? Do they have so little time, that they turn every game design from the janitor in EA headquarter into a game?
This game will lay around every Media-Market for 2-3 long years in every rubbish-game-pick-for-20-EUR-box and I will think 'it has a sleek cover, is it really that bad?' and I will remember Cubed

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

But it's fun to read, sorry for being sadistical...

As long as someone is reading it, everything is good!

The thing that really ticks my boxes (there not good boxes) is the thought of just how awesome licensed games could be if there were people out there willing to put more effort into making them.

(Now we had an interview with the DS team, and they were darned nice people

Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >

As long as someone is reading it, everything is good!

spydarlee, you shouldn't suffer pointless!

Yes, a really good license game!
But there are some flaws in that thought: first license iteslf is too expensive. Not much money left - that does it for small companies, but not for EA or Activision. Second the lack of time. They have not much time when a film is made to come up with the whole game. What's a year in game-making? So these movies have to be planned and the game must be planned too. Side by side! That's what almost no movie-maker or movie-studio wants or thinks of. Then even ambitous game studios must rush things. And escpecially the ideas you point out, spydarlee, take a lot of time. Think about good RPGs. They take 4 years to make...

But that's no excuse! Make good games, people! This bullshit-money-making-with-platform-games can't go right forever. In some future times the gamers of today are grannies and will not buy their kids this shitload.
End of Line!

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

The game is not on my Christmas list!


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