When in Doubt, Use Sprites
At this point, I have played Thor for the Xbox 360 and Thor for the Wii, and both weren’t all that good. So, my expectations were rather low coming in to playing Thor for the DS. The game has several flaws, but in terms of sheer fun factor, Thor DS outperformed both of its brothers.
Here’s the story: Thor is tricked by Loki into journeying to other realms in order to save Sif, his love interest. (Thor certainly does get tricked a lot doesn’t he?) Oh yeah, and Asgard is under attack by trolls and Mangog is running amok and all that other stuff.
The little bit of story in the game is told through cutscenes that play out through in-game graphics and text boxes that kind of look like comic book panels. It’s cheesy, corny, and campy, but it actually works. It’s a thinly-veiled window dressing for a sprite-based action game, but at least it doesn’t detract from the game at all.
Thor is a 2D platformer/brawler that is pretty basic in its execution. Thor can string together attacks to form combos, which really let him get creative. You can bounce enemies off walls, strike them with lightning, combo them in midair, and generally do the awesome stuff that you see Thor do in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. You can use melee attacks, ranged attacks, fly, and even blow up the screen with huge lightning storms. Elements of the stage are interactive, allowing you to bash enemies with picked-up items or even bring down entire stage sections on top of your enemies’ heads. Thor is customizable by equipping up to three runes at once to augment his abilities, but you can pretty much get through the game without using any of these upgrades.
Unfortunately, one thing that all the Thor games have in common is a lack of combat depth. You can get through this game by mashing out the same combo over and over. The action never really changes from one stage to another. You beat the crap out of enemy after enemy after pallet-swapped enemy, right up until the end. Yet there’s just something about a 2D brawler that keeps it from feeling repetitive so quickly. Sometimes you’ll feel the levels drag on, but Thor still feels awesome in the 2D world.
The action takes place on both screens, which is part of why the game is so much fun. You can see enemies above you, waiting to pounce on your unsuspecting Asgardian head, only to strike them with bolts of lightning from the sky. This sort of dual screen gameplay is pretty fun, as you can cover both screens with Thor’s lightning attacks. Switching your gaze between both screens feels natural and the action never gets too hectic to pay attention to both. The developers of this game, Way Forward, were also the guys who did work on Contra 4, and it shows. The alternating dual screen stages are very reminiscent of that bullet hell DS classic.
Where the dual screens really shine is during boss fights. Bosses take up both screens, pelting you with attacks from all directions. Managing both screens becomes more hectic, and pattern recognition becomes key—a big departure from the random button mashing you will be doing most of the game. Surtur is my main boss comparison across the games, and having him stab down at me from the top screen was the most fun I had in any of his incarnations. It feels like a boss fight from Contra 4 or some other random Japanese bullet hell game. It’s fast and fun and keeps you on your toes.
Unfortunately, the boss encounters are few and far between. It would actually have been better if there were more boss fights and fewer random enemies, but that’s just a small gripe.
The graphics in Thor look amazing on the DS, but I I like the retro aesthetic. Thor and his enemies are made out of fluidly-moving sprites like you might expect to find in games like Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. The stages have painted-on backgrounds, which can get a little boring, but they move dynamically as Thor wanders throughout the environments. Even the hitsparks feel satisfying in an anime-fighting-game sort of way. Even though the game doesn’t do anything graphically that we haven’t seen before, I still think the fluid sprites are a treat to look at. That gives the game points in my book.
There isn’t a whole lot of replay value in Thor. There’s a survival mode, but the combat is repetitive enough already without making it infinite. Sadly, the game only lasts about four hours. Even though the pacing is off at times and you’ll have to put down the game due to the tediously long levels, it still feels unfulfillingly short when it’s all over. Four hours is just not enough to warrant the game’s thirty-five dollar price tag.
Thor for the DS is not one of the better games out there. Heck, there are way better action titles for the DS. However, I wasn’t looking for a great game. I was just looking for a Thor game that was semi-decent. Thor for the DS is more than semi-decent, it’s full-on decent. It’s a game that I honestly had fun with despite its flaws. Far too often, movie games are failures, but Thor for the DS is at least a bit better than your standard franchise flop.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
Maybe it’s just me, but sprites always look good, and this game does sprites well. It reminds me of the old school comic based beat ’em ups from the SNES and Genesis eras. 3.0 Control
Get ready to button mash some more, because that’s basically what the combat system is. At least you look good while doing it. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The game is sadly lacking in the sound and music areas. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that the generic quality of the sound effects and soundtrack is really apparent through the DS speakers. 3.5 Play Value
The long levels get tedious at times, but the pacing is just good enough to get you through the game. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|