Sunday, May 15, 2016

Superman Returns (game)

   Everyone talks about good games or absolutely awful games, but quickly forgotten bargain bin games only ever get talked about in a Top 20 article, or not at all. So, in the spirit of whatever and reviewing some random game, I give to you... the people of earth, Superman Returns. A game based on a movie not many people even liked, and to make matters worse, it came out several months after the movie. Go figure. However, the allure of flying around in an open world setting, with a host of super powers at my disposal was too cool for 12 year old me to turn down.

    On that basic premise, Superman Returns delivers. It's probably the best Superman game out there, which is kinda sad unfortunately because while it aims to impress, it mostly just flops around a bit and presents itself dramatically. Like so:
Like a cat bringing it's master a dead rat. In this case... a dead frozen rat.
   I feel like that's a harsh and kinda unfair comparison, comparing this game to Batman & Robin, the worst comic book movie of all time. But hey! At least Superman Returns isn't as mind numbingly awful as Superman 64! When that's the big takeaway from your game, you know you messed up in a big way somewhere. Alas, that 'somewhere' isn't so hard to figure out. Nevertheless, as Superman, you can fly around, use your heat vision, super breath, ice breath, and super strength as you see fit. Chucking cars around, using lampposts as baseball bats, and even swooping up pedestrians in your arms as you involuntarily mumble your way through a horrible rendition of the already corny Can You Read My Mind. Unfortunately, mind reading isn't one of Superman's powers in this game.

   Not that it would've made much of a difference, what we really needed was a freakin' story. The game has some nonsense in the beginning with some... weird nonsense. A meteor shower is apparently the best way to teach the player how to use Superman's powers... not. It's an odd and confusing mess that showcases the poor handling that plagues the game once you're forced into scenarios like this. After (or before? I can't remember...) this mess, there's even more nonsense...

Nonsense I tell you! Nonsense!
   Because who would want to explore this massive virtual Metropolis after the obligatory tutorial? Psh. Not me. I so very much want to be taken somewhere else to do... stuff. Gladiatorial intergalactic combat in any other game sounds great, but as an opener for Superman Returns, it's a restrictive drag. And, if I didn't know better (and I do) I'd say it was strategically placed to keep you playing the game so you wouldn't discover so soon that there's actually not much to do in Metropolis besides dick around and fly. Which are usually the same thing. 

   The game is ultimately just... not good. We deserve a good Superman game and this isn't it. But, this is a decent warm up. Like an open ended demo that you can play whenever you want to do something like this:

Hey, Bruce! Think fast!
   It's a Superman emulator, and little else. There's random villains that pop up without any story whatsoever, and you can zip around and take em out, and don't get me wrong... all of this is fun. It's just not engaging or compelling in any significant way. The game is marred by awkward controls and faulty collision detection, but flying or running around at super speed is fun, tossing the globe atop the Daily Planet around is fun, and overall the game seems to give up and just cater to your chaotic dicking around. You can even play as Bizzaro, or unlock alternate Superman costumes. This is all well and good.

Super balance! A power that nobody takes seriously enough.
   Nobody gets a thrill out of searching for cats as collectibles though. Screw you Mister Mxyzptlk, your races are horrible throwbacks to Superman 64. The giant Metallo battle manages to be as riveting as the climax to a Transformers movie. So, you're either one of two people. Either you just said, "What? That sounds awesome!" or you don't actually see a climax in any of those movies so much as you just see giant stuff mindlessly smashing into each other while loud music plays and people scream. All for about 20 or 30 minutes. Either way, that's your average boss battle in Superman Returns

   Also, the game is kinda funny, playing it post-Man of Steel, because obviously Superman himself can't die, so what does the game do for a life meter? It gauges how much damage Metropolis itself is taking. Too much, too many innocent people die, building damages, and you FAIL. Superman ignores the fact that no matter how bad it currently is, MORE people could die if he doesn't keep fighting, he stops and collapses to the ground in agony, defeat, and surrender, like the gamer after realizing how silly this is. Take that Zach Snyder! This is what should've happened in your movie! Superman should've just collapsed and started crying.

   In fact, this game perfectly highlights what's wrong with that retarded argument about Man of Steel. In this game, try as you might to relocate fights away from populated areas and annoying NPC pedestrians, you really can't. Not when your enemies are actively trying to hurt people. You can't just pull a Power Rangers and teleport the whole battle to some random frozen wasteland. You also can't just say "Hey guys, lets try and kill each other over here, there's less people to bother us." It just doesn't work that way. This game also lets you play good Samaritan though and rescue injured pedestrians, flying them to nearby medics or hospitals. Which is actually pretty cool.

   I have a weird soft spot for the graphics in the game, looking less like I'm controlling a flesh and blood character and more like I'm controlling action figures- it's bright and colorful and plastic-y. For some demented reason, I like it. Regardless, there's just something inherently satisfying about smashing cars into robot bad guys, or super-punching dragons in mid-air, and Superman Returns lets you do those things. It doesn't let you do those things gracefully though. As smooth and intuitive as the flying is in this game, everything else can be kind of it's own adversary to you. Superman vs. The Shoddy Game Mechanics might not have an amazing ring to it, but it's one of his greatest battles ever!
Even Metallo is confused...
   Still, I suppose it says something that I'd rather play this game than watch the movie again?

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