The apathetic gamer. That is I. Try as I might, it’s rare that I can sit and play a video game for an extended period of time, regardless of how good or bad the game might be. I’ve got the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain and the critically derided Deadly Premonitions and neither have captured my imagination for very long (though, admittedly, I plan on revisiting both of them; I love Hard Rain’s plot and the wacky Twin Peaks elements of Deadly Premonitions). I was an avid purchaser of the yearly WWE games since the late 90’s, but my lack of commitment to playing the last few years of Smackdown Vs Raw even resulted in me passing on the 2010 edition of the game (a lackluster few years of wrestling storylines didn’t help much either).
Seeing as how I have poor gaming habits, over the last year I’ve tried to watch my purchases. So when Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was released late in 2009, I actually took a pass on picking that game up as well. This is a big deal because 1)I was a fan of the first Ultimate Alliance offering, even if I’m stuck someplace in the middle of that one, and 2) the sequel is based on the fantastic Secret War/Civil War storyline that had a huge impact on the Marvel Comic universe for the last few years. Even with pressure from some fellow Biff Bam Poppers to pick it up so that we could play online together, I held firm that I wouldn’t drop the dough on the game; at least, not until tit experienced a price drop that would make the purchase a little more justified. I would keep my eyes open for a used copy in the meantime, but I wound up waiting until a few weeks ago, when retailers started offering Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for the nice price of $20. I’m glad I waited.
Keep in mind that these are rough impressions because, not surprisingly, I haven’t spent too much time with the game as of yet. It certainly looks good – the cut scenes are great to view and the character designs are solid for those I’ve played with (including Wolverine, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Captain America, and Spider-Man). And the plot is as memorable as the comics it’s based on. Nick Fury has taken a group of heroes to the country of Latveria (home of Doctor Doom) and whose Prime Minister has helped facilitate weapons to super villains. However, if you’ve played the original Ultimate Alliance, or going back even further to the X-Men: Legends that were on the original X-Box and Playstation 2 platforms, the controls and four player scheme is pretty familiar, which leaves a bit of a “more of the same” feeling for this admittedly average gamer. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2’s big claim to fame upon its release was the Fusion capability of two characters being able to deliver special power moves together, but I should probably spend a little more time with the instruction manual, since I don’t find using it particularly intuitive. As well, sometimes the onslaught of villains attacking you is just too much and too busy, and you lose your characters in the fray. What Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 does do wonderfully well is place me in the Marvel Universe, which was always the games selling point, even with its faults. I may not be the best gamer, but it does leave me wanting to pick up the joystick and return to the world.
There’s another Marvel Universe game that I’d been holding off on for months, waiting for the inevitable price drop, but this one was a little more under the radar. Marvel Super Hero Squad is based on the kids tv program of the same name, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. In both the show and the game, we’re given access to mini versions of our favorite Marvel Heroes, as they do battle against the Lethal Legion, led by (not surprisingly) Doctor Doom. If you’re unfamiliar with the Super Hero Squad, consider it to be a Muppet Babies take on characters like Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Thor, the Hulk and others. The stories are written with good humor and a sense of the absurd, and the game carries that over.
While the reviews for Marvel Super Hero Squad upon its release were far from kind, I must admit that I found it pretty refreshing when comparing it to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Simple controls, unique character designs and that sense of humour (not to mention its cheap price) gave me a chuckle as I started plowing through the first level with Thor and Hulk against the agents of A.I.M. The game also offers up a battle mode, where you can put your Squad members head to head in something akin to the old Mortal Kombat game. Marvel Super Hero Squad may be designed for kids, but I’m getting a kick out of it (I may even be able to convince The Queen to pick up a controller and do battle with me).
Marvel Super Hero Squad and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2/strong> are very different takes on one fantastic universe. While I couldn’t have recommended either of them at their full price when they were both released, with their recent price drops you can play two unique games for the price of less than either’s original price. If you’re into story and graphic, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is for you. If you’re looking for simple game play and a few laughs, Super Hero Squad (and it’s upcoming sequel) is for you.
I know they’ll be keeping my attention for at least a few hours and for this apathetic gamer, that’s saying something.