Not only has this been a summer full of super hero themed blockbuster movies, but it has also been a summer filled with super hero themed lackluster games to tie in to these movies. I tried really, really hard to like Thor: God of Thunder and Green Lantern: The Rise of the Manhunters but I just couldn’t do it — despite Thor’s pecs that could crush a walnut and Hal’s abs of steel. They both felt like drab games that had been rushed to be released in time to sorta-kinda tie-in to their respective movies. Naturally, you can appreciate the trepidation with which I approached Captain America: Super Soldier, especially since it was developed by Griptonite who did the aforementioned Green Lantern game. I knew deep down inside of me that the animated version of Chris Evans as Captain America wouldn’t exactly put the toppings on my pizza, if you catch my drift, but I was surprised to find an enjoyable 2D brawler seasoned with a bit of nostalgia a gamer of my advancing years can appreciate.
Captain America: Super Soldier on DS plays a lot like any 2D beat-em-up game, such as Viewtiful Joe or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. You advance Cap through the levels of Hydra’s (the bad guys) headquarters until you hit a spot where you can no longer advance. Then you must brawl your way through wave after wave of spawning enemies using B to jump and evade, Y to initiate attack combos, X to throw enemies, and R to block attacks or deflect projectiles. Once you defeat every enemy in an area you will be allowed to continue your progress through the stage. Landing successful blows while avoiding taking hits yourself will fill up Captain America’s special attack gauge. Once it is half full you can press the L button to unleash a special attack that damages everything on the screen, or you can wait until it is 100% full to unleash an even more devastating attack. The controls are quick and responsive, though it is a little too easy to get into a rut of just bashing the A button to spam the shield throw. Trying to vary Captain America’s attacks usually just results in him being overwhelmed until his health bar is drained away.
The development team at Griptonite went to great lengths to keep the gameplay elements varied. There are segments where you will have to keep Cap out of the line of sight of Hydra’s soldiers, then stealthily sneak up behind them and take them down. There is also a pretty good range of enemies for the Captain to pummel: ranging from run-of-the mill Hydra foot soldiers who are wussier that the biggest wuss in the imaginary town of Wussopolis, to gigantic missile firing robots like Iron Cross. There are also auto-run levels where Captain America will run at full speed through the stinking and stagnant bowels of Hydra castle while you only control his jumps jumps in order to grab medals which increase your score, and you can hit Y to do a shoulder bash which will eliminate the Hydra foot soldiers in your path.
Most people wouldn’t expect to find a puzzle in a 2D brawler like this one, especially ones that require at least a rudimentary understanding of geometry. There is nothing even close to the level of puzzles one would find in a game like those in the Legend of Zelda series, but they are certainly a welcomed addition to the game. Usually the puzzle is an environmental one that requires players to find and manipulate switches that will unlock the way forward. All of Cap’s special skills are used, such as his wall jumps, dashing (we’re talking about running fast here, not being a lady killer), and most importantly, the shield throw. Many switches needed an electrical charge to activate, so you would have to throw Captain America’s shield at an electricity source and ricochet it to the switch. It’s pretty convenient that Hydra’s secret switches are seemingly designed specifically for Captain America to foil, but how often does the world of video games actually make sense?
Visually, Captain America: Super Soldier looks good. The color palate of the backgrounds is pretty dull and washed-out, but given the fact that the whole game takes place in a singular location that happens to be a Nazi military base that is somewhat forgivable. I really doubt Red Skull spent a lot of time watching Christopher Lowell for advice as he was choosing the castle’s decor. Character models look very small, but that could be an attempt from the developers to show the scale of the castle. All in all animations are fluid and the overall visual style is one that plays to the DS’s strengths well. The sound is composed of standard adventure music fare which is very conducive to crushing in Nazi skulls. Believe it or not, dialogue in the game is handled by actual voice acting, which is pretty rare in a DS game.
Honestly, Captain America: Super Soldier on the DS surprised me. After a summer full of disappointing super hero games I went into this with low expectations and came out of it with a renewed hope for this genre. Fun beat-em-up gameplay joined with interesting puzzles and a fairly solid presentation made this a game comic geeks of any level would want to check out. Maybe the inevitable Avengers movie game won’t be awful, and maybe it will pander just a little to the gay geeky gamer audience, but I wouldn’t count on that just yet.
Captain America: Super Soldier (DS)
|Good gameplay and decent graphics make for a super hero game that finally feels playable.||Colors look washed out, Cap's moves are little unbalanced.|
|Verdict||Anyone looking for a decent super hero game on the DS will like this game.|