Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor,
Iron Man. Who doesn’t love at least one of these characters? These comic book
superheroes have become such an integral part of our lives that they’re
practically legendary. As kids, we wanted to be them (and often dressed as them
for Halloween). As teens, we couldn’t part with their respective toys because we
considered them to be “collectors’ items.” And as adults we flock to movie
theaters every summer to see them on the big screen. So how, I ask you, could we
ever not love them?
The answer might be found within
Marvel Super Hero Squad, a new action game for Wii. There are several playable
characters (including the aforementioned superheroes), many stages, and lots of
enemies to destroy, but none of that is half as important as the overbearing
reality that we have already seen and played everything this game has to offer.
The Golden Button
We all know what the A button looks
like. We’ve all pressed it many times before. Still, it has to be said that if
you’re going to play Marvel Super Hero Squad, you should double-check your Wii
remote and make sure that you do, in fact, know exactly where the A button is
Though you can use other buttons to
execute a jump or alternate attack, the A button is your primary defense. In
truth, it’s the only button you need to defeat enemies, to win arena battles
(where four superheroes and/or super villains face off against each other in a
lousy 3D version of Smash Bros.), and to get through almost every stage.
All too quickly, this amounts to
hundreds of times that A button must be pressed. Before you know it, you’ll be
into the thousands. How can I be so sure? Because after spending a good 60
minutes pressing the A button and nothing else, I started to count my button
taps. After three minutes, I had pushed the A button at least 200 times! That’s
more than one A button per second, and while not every press may have been
necessary (button-mashing games tend to foster player responses that lead to
more button taps than are needed for each combo), the number is still
If you don’t press the A button,
what else is there to do? You can switch between the two characters that you’re
playing with, but their powers are nothing special, and their combos are all the
same. So you push the A button, destroy an endless flood of enemies, and hope
and wait for something monumental to happen.
For all of that, what does the game
deliver? Another group of enemies, and thus another reason to press the A button
several dozen more times.
Missing the Mark
There are a couple of games that
made button-mashing fun, but Marvel Super Hero Squad isn’t one of them. In
addition to being one of the most repetitive games of the year, it is also one
of the most mechanically challenged, featuring an auto-controlled camera that
gets stuck in awkward positions, and playable characters that can get stuck in
weird areas of a level that the camera won’t let you see properly. The level
designs are just as lame as the game’s use of the A button; in short, the layout
is the equivalent to a cardboard box that has walls inside of it and arrows
telling you where to go. The visuals aren’t any better; they too are bogged by
generic, below-Wii-standards ugliness. It’s one thing to have cartoon aesthetics
with accentuated character designs – it is wholly another to paint them in
polygons that look like they came from a console released years before the Wii
Marvel Super Hero Squad brags about
its drop-in/drop-out co-op, but don’t get too excited; it’s offline-only and
doesn’t make the camera, control or gameplay issues any less problematic. The
game also brags about its four-player battle mode (same as the arena battles in
the single-player mode), which allows you to compete in free-for-all, two-on-two
and three-on-one battles. This might be a tantalizing feature in a button-masher
that rocked. But let’s not forget that these are commonplace elements that you
can expect from any game of this kind – good or bad.
Very often you can put aside a
game’s flaws because, underneath all the havoc and hogwash, the game is fun,
exciting, or just plain cool. Innovation is certainly a head-turner that’s
capable of retaining players even when the game is lacking on the whole. Sadly,
there is nothing in Marvel Super Hero Squad that allows such a scenario to
develop. I can’t recommend it to older Marvel fans because of the repetition and
the frustration; I can’t recommend it to kids for those same reasons. Beyond the
recommendation, it is highly likely that every person who reads this review
already has a game just like Marvel Super Hero Squad sitting in their
collection. It may not have the Marvel license attached, but who cares? In all
but the rarest of cases, a video-game license isn’t all that different from
beauty, which is only skin deep.
Repetitive, clunky and predictable, Marvel Super Hero Squad is a
The goofy character designs might have been acceptable if they weren’t
washed out and didn’t move so clunky. But even then you’d have the backgrounds
to look at, which are awful, and the misguided auto-camera, which is unbearably
Less annoying than the hideous character designs, but still nothing you’d
want to listen to.
How difficult is it to press the A button?
Marvel Super Hero Squad is a button-masher with a big-name license attached.
In other words, it’s a sleep-inducing, we’ve-all-seen-it-before idea that has
been executed with zero polish.
Four thumbs. Four A buttons. Four zillion times that button will be tapped.
There are many, many great kids games out there, including those with
powerful licenses attached. Just look at The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th
Sun or the recent Ice Age game. Marvel Super Hero Squad, however, should be