There’s Nothing Super About These Grande Quads
June 26, 2007 – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer chalks up another one for lame movie-inspired games. Not that we have a lot of hope for these kinds of games in the first place, but it’s nice when the odd, great game does manifest. This is the kind of game that might be considered average if it appeared on the GBA, but it just doesn’t cut it on the DS. It’s a simple, side scrolling game that lacks in every department with the exception of the soundtrack. Don’t buy this game for the tunes. Steal them for free off the internet like everyone else does.
In Rise of the Silver Surfer, even the Surfer himself seems embarrassed of this game as he certainly limits his appearances, despite having the game named after him. Following the premise of the movie, the Fantastic Four are compelled to investigate the appearance of a strange, silver alien being that is surfing around in mid air. Is he a friend or foe? The game wants to keep you guessing as you follow him around and pick up tidbits of information. But to keep things interesting in the meantime, you’ll have to deal with Dr. Doom and his minions. No question about his predilection.
Each of the four Fantastics will get his or her turn in each level. They each have different abilities, but the game doesn’t put enough emphasis on these individual powers, an oversight that really dampens the gameplay. The Thing is big, bulky, and powerful. He’s built like a tank, but yet he’s able to jump and glide through the air like he’s walking on the surface of the moon. He delivers some nice blows but then again so do Reed and Sue. Reed is the stretchy, plastic-man dude. Sue is the invisible girl. She’s got a special ability that allows her to ride over the pitfalls on a floating, saucer-shaped force field. Johnny, the Human Torch, has a vertical shooter level in which he shoots fireballs at the enemy as he continues upward. It’s mildly amusing but has the depth of a mini-game, which unfortunately I can’t say about most of the levels.
In an interesting twist, you will be able to control the Fantasticar as well as the Silver Surfer. Boss battles, of which there are only three, require the use of the stylus, but beyond that the game makes very little use of the DS’s touch and dual screen abilities. The bottom screen displays a large photo of the actor that played the corresponding character in the movie. It just takes up screen real estate and serves no useful purpose. You’ll find your health and power bars also in the lower screen where you’ll be able to access the power-ups by touching them. It’s the least the developers could do to acknowledge the touch screen, but a noticeable reluctance to deliver high quality undermines the game from beginning to end.
At first glance, you may not be able to detect the defects since it’s not a terrible looking game. But once you realize that the environments are only rendered in two dimensions, you’ll wonder why there are framerate issues which cause the game to sputter and stutter. Upon closer examination you’ll see low-res textures repeated throughout the levels, and a decided lack of detail. I acknowledge that the sprites look better than the first game, but it would have been nice if the developers would have given each character more depth in terms of control and move lists.
A lot of potential is hinted at but never realized. While playing the first hour of the game, you’re likely to have a good feeling about what’s coming up. It feels as though the four characters are gaining more experience and skills. That’s an enabling excuse for why they all seem so similar. The challenges increase, and puzzles and gem collection add a bit more dimension to the gameplay, though nothing in terms of uniqueness. But into the second hour it begins to dawn on you that perhaps the game has peaked. By the third hour your suspicions are confirmed. From then on it’s only a few more hours until it’s all over. You could go back and try to collect all of the gems. That will unlock some classic Fantastic Four comic book covers. I mention that you have to “go back” to find these gems because once you complete a level you can’t simply “go back” to the last level to locate these treasures. And I can vouch that it’s not worth the time to unlock these unlockables.
Rise of the Silver Surfer is a poorly-executed side scroller. It’s marred by low production values, but more than that, it’s just an uninspired game. Even if it were an amazing looking game with lots of touch screen elements, the gameplay is tired and repetitious. Even an online multiplayer mode couldn’t save this game. It would be nice to play as each character in a Gauntlet-style format, but the lack of distinctive abilities for each of the four characters puts the kibosh on that dream. One could surmise that this game was doomed from the start.