Every great super hero game has, without exception, captured the feeling of actually being the protagonist of the title, in video game format. Arkham Asylum nailed the 'predator' aspect of The Batman in its combat by portraying Bruce Wayne as a powerful hand-to-hand fighter that nevertheless had to strategically pick off his armed enemies with a combination of stealth and intelligence. He is a 'caped crusader', not 'faster than a speeding bullet' after all, and Rocksteady understood that. The original X-Men arcade game got across what it was to be in a team of heroes by offering six player simultaneous multiplayer, and the first Spider-Man on PlayStation showed off the vertical freedom of Peter Parker by setting the majority of it atop the rooftops of New York City.
Enter then Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet from Griptonite Games - with a THQ that is currently one of the most exciting medium-sized publishers in the industry - and their take on an Avengers / Justice League-type squad of good guys through the lens of the animated kids show Marvel Super Hero Squad. The show itself is a neat idea, neatly presented: super-deformed versions of the most well-known heroes and villains of the Marvel universe do light hearted battle each episode and spout one-liners at any opportunity they get, gently lampooning the format of spandex and supermen. You should also know that Galactus is voiced by George Takei and Adam West steps up to provide Nighthawk's vocal chords. Which is awesome.
This knowing humour and visual style is captured really well by the developer, with eye-roll-inducing puns quipped by chunkily-designed avatars against a variety of bright backdrops, set to a child-friendly story of 'The Squad' celebrating the birthday of 'Blondie', or 'Thor' as older Marvel fans will know him. The banter is enjoyable and the well meaning fun is a refreshing antithesis to a medium that is continually delving deeper into the darker sides of men who exclusively wear synthetics, plus the solidly crafted score - a combination of Saturday morning rock and dramatic orchestral pieces - also pleasantly surprises, lending an element of sophistication and going to further reinforce the pure fun the title pitches for.
The smiles however begin to fade when you take control of this LEGO Star Wars wannabe, as it's not just the plot and graphics that are childish. Most of your time in the game is taken up with three things: 1. combat 2. puzzle solving 3. platforming, none of which ever rises above mediocrity. Fighting foes feels stilted and slow, with animation windows either being far too lengthy, giving you no time to react to enemies, or far too short so that combos don't link smoothly together. The button layout isn't ideal either... I thought we all agreed that 'light strike' would be mapped to the A button for Wii games and not the B trigger? Didn't the developers get the memo?
Solving the spatial conundrums Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet throws in your way run the gamut from insultingly obvious to insanely tough, usually due - in single player at least - to weak AI. I spent twenty minutes on one of the combat-based puzzles of the game, defending a number of conduits while they charged. My partner in power decided that, instead of pitching in and lending a hand, that he'd just stand there and watch as I frantically ran around crushing a horde of adversaries that impeded my progress. If Griptonite’s artificial intelligence programming leaves much to be desired here, the camera is something else entirely. It’s the main issue that affects the platforming, usually being far too low along the ground to handle 3D platforming effectively.
Boring for kids and too unintuitive for adults. Being a superhero shouldn't be this dull or uncreative.
Gets the tone of the show over well, but textures stretched thinner than Mr. Fantastic and shoddy animation lower the appeal.
Beautifully composed classical work and bouncy modern tunes. George Takei seals the deal.
There's a lot to see and a vault full of stuff to unlock, but you'll have to play the game to access it. Which you won't.
Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet captures the spirit of the show it is based on wonderfully, showcasing a world of Marvel that's more Tiny Toon Adventures than Loony Tunes. Yet this is a game first and foremost, which Griptonite seems to have forgotten, and subsequently the mechanics feel - ironically - immature. Even die-hard True Believers will be hard pushed to find much enjoyment here.