Expectations for film-to-game adaptations are generally low. Though some have been winners, the majority of movie games are non-discrete shovelware that cash in on a preexisting license. I’ve played my fair share of movie-based games, and while no title will be as horrid an experience as Over the Hedge, I usually don’t hold out hope for these tie-ins. That’s why Thor: God of Thunder is such a surprising title. It’s not perfect, but it often has flashes of beat ’em up brilliance. These flashes never evolve into anything more than just that, but they do come together to create a compelling package.
The plot in Thor is fairly thin and the storytelling is predictably weak. The game takes place before the events of the movie and tells the story of how Thor must take down a massive beast that he freed in his rage. After the mighty protagonist realizes that he goofed, he must work with his father and his brother to stop the beast and its many minions. The story is delivered through motion comic stills and cutscenes. Though the art in the former is pretty cool, neither method tells the story very well. This results in a plot that you can’t help but disregard as you get further along in the game.
But as mind-numbingly dull as the plot may be, the gameplay in Thor is reasonably competent. You basically run down long corridors and brawl against hordes of baddies, taking on mini-bosses and major enemies in the process. If this all sounds repetitive, it is. But like so many good beat ’em ups before it, Thor’s constant button-mashing is coupled with satisfying combat mechanics. Tapping the A button on the Wii Remote makes for basic hammer strikes while swinging the controller sideways unleashes a strong attack. An upward swing tosses your foes into the air, where you can juggle them around, send them downward, and then strike them down. Everything is basic but functional. And although you can upgrade Thor and earn new moves, you’re likely to mash and swing your way through the entire game.
Exclusive to the Wii version of Thor are a collection of neat aerial levels. Here the action is on-rails, and you simply guide Thor around the screen, avoiding enemy attacks and projectiles and launching your own offense from afar. These levels are nicely spread throughout the game, so you never get tired of them. Boss battles also make for a nice change of pace, and these are challenging and easily provide some of the best moments in the game. The only thing wrong with these sections is that there aren’t enough of them. The variety that boss battles bring to the game makes for some fun moments, but they’re so sparse that you’ll be left wanting more.
The visual presentation in Thor fits nicely with the simple beat ’em up mechanics. The game features a decent colorful aesthetic rather than going for realism. Given the title’s comic book roots, this is a great direction for the developers to take. Unfortunately, for such a simple look, the frame rate is largely inconsistent. It immediately takes a hit the moment you begin playing, and although the graphics pick up as you progress, any area with a lot of activity going on is usually plagued by frame rate issues. This holds especially true during context-sensitive sequences, when it can definitely be a hindrance.
The audio in the game isn’t very hot, either. The voice acting is passable, if uninspired. And the music is nothing special. Given the Hollywood casting in the game, you’d think the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston would provide better voice work for the game, but unfortunately, all of the characters sound drab and unexciting.
Thor will probably last you about five hours on your first play-through. That’s not too bad considering this is a game based on a movie, and given the title’s often enjoyable gameplay, you may feel compelled to give the higher difficulty settings a try. Ultimately, Thor will appeal largely to members of the beat ’em up crowd who happen to have an affinity for the comic books. At times, the game feels like a simplified God of War minus the puzzles and platforming. The $50 price tag on the Wii version is hard to recommend, but it still beats the largely inferior Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. If you want some no-nonsense brawling gameplay, Thor: God of Thunder should keep you entertained. It’s not perfect or even great by any means, but it’s a good beat ’em up nonetheless.