|Dev: Griptonite Games|
|Release: October 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Despite the Marvel Super Hero Squad blatantly targeting a younger audience, THQ went all out by publishing last year's title, The Infinity Gauntlet, for the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, and the Nintendo DS. Now, with the 3DS picking up some steam, THQ is looking for an easy extra cash-in by prettying up the DS version and thrusting it onto Nintendo's newest handheld. What we as the consumer receive is an outdated port with irritating 3D visuals and a severe lack of content.
Although Marvel Super Hero Squad, the first game in this series, had many faulty issues, the one praiseworthy element was the story. While certainly far from gripping, the story is pulled from authentic comic book chronicles penned by veteran writer and artist, Jim Starlin. Adding cheesy stock characters from the cartoon series, the bickering between them and the unintimidating villains were enough to make anyone shake their heads and laugh at the absurdity of it all. The humor mirrors what we typically find in modern day Disney or DreamWorks movies, which has the younger audience laughing at some parts, and adults laughing at others.
With this in mind, I was optimistic when the opening sequence played through, with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk pulling into a shopping station in space to buy some new boots for Thor's birthday. A packaging error has placed the boots into a box going to the evil Thanos, delivered by his nasally errand boy Super-Skrull who thought he was bringing Thanos a nifty new gauntlet. After hitching a ride on Thanos' ship, Iron Man and Hulk discover his plot to obtain the Infinity Stones to power his gauntlet, which would make him omnipotent. The console cousins from the 2010 version delivered constant banter and witty one-liners which kept you chuckling through each level. The 3DS version, however, is all business when the mission starts as Ms. Marvel sends constant dispatches about your next objective, holding your hand from start to finish. A few more cutscenes pop in from time to time, and some comical animations and lewd bodily functions provide a quick grin, but when you're thrust back into the gameplay, the smiles turn to frowns, with nothing but tedious action platforming.
The stages are comprised of numerous interconnected zones, all small, all square, and all lacking thoughtful design. With your sole objective to acquire the particular Infinity Stone, you must make your way through enemy-infested corridors, solving simple puzzles, all of which require the talents of specific superheroes. But never fear, because although you are limited to only two onscreen characters at a time, a S.W.A.P. station is always nearby, where you can switch to another available character and quickly backtrack to eliminate the obstacle.
Only a handful of Marvel icons are playable, each equipped with unique attacks and dilemma-solving talents. Iron Man and Invisible Woman have the brains to hack computers, Hulk has the brawn to heave the sixteen-ton weights out of the way, Spider-Man can pull himself across gaps or pull small crates toward him, and Thor can call forth a bolt of lightning to provide electrical power to a system. There are others as well, but each is so painfully obvious that even the toddlers the game is intended for will find it beneath them. The boss battles are equally shallow, with easily discernable attack patterns sure to grant you success on the very first attempt.
It is fun to swap between characters and test their playable powers, and the constant swapping keeps the redundancy down, to some degree. The fact that you cannot block in the 3DS version (no, not even with Captain America's trusty shield), nor can you interrupt an attack animation to dodge out of the way, will keep you slightly on edge, with an easily diminishable health bar. However, there is no penalty for death—you have infinite lives, and unless you're barricaded in a particular room, you can simply run a few steps to a different zone, instantly shooting your health back to full.
Defeating enemies and shattering certain environments will net you some crystal shards, a currency used only to unlock a small list of side challenges from the main menu. These mostly consist of defeating waves of enemies with other obstacles to heighten the difficulty, or slightly more thought-provoking puzzles, but none give you any kind of reward beside a little checkmark. In fact, apart from the few challenges and some costumes to collect, there are no extra features like achievements or trophies, and no multiplayer whatsoever. And unlike the console version, you will have access to 100% of each stage on the first playthrough, offering no incentive to return.
Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet also makes minimal use of the system's built-in features. Like the DS version, the touchscreen is primarily a map, which is hardily required considering the miniscule level sizes. Computer hacking requires a quick tap combination, but otherwise it's all fingers on the buttons. Also, because this is more a port than a new version, there is no StreetPass or SpotPass, or use of the Play Coins and Augmented Reality functions. A shame really, since it would have been fun to see the pint-sized superheroes strut their moves on the carpet.