Mario Charged Soccer (Wii)
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Captain America: Super Soldier 360 gets accused of being a Batman rip-off. But the ambition and quality make it more homage than counterfeit. Let the Bat and Cap fans punch it out I say, girl fight!
I'd not got on well with Sega's last two Marvel games. They weren't stinkers, but I eventually gave up on both Iron Man and Thor because of their fiddly controls and grinding gameplay. But I was happily surprised to enjoy Captain America much more.
Looking at the box I noticed that it's made by Next Level Games, who are responsible for me and my friends' all time favourite game Mario Charged Soccer (Wii). True to form they've made some clever design decisions Captain America too.
One of my friends was a little outraged at how similar this game is to Batman Arkham Asylum. Although it's true that it does seem to have been a bit of a template for them, if you are going to copy greatness why not shoot high.
It has the free world aspect, although here it's Baron Zemo castle rather than Arkham - there's even a network of interconnected sewers to help speed navigation, again just like in Arkham Asylum. Tactical vision replaces Detective Vision, group brawling is again very similar with Cap's shield replacing the Bat--rang.
I know this makes it sounds like a bit of a knock off - as my Batman-loving friend keeps telling me - but there is enough quality here to justify the similarities. Although the combat is never quite as visceral or bone shattering as in Arkham, there is a real sense of pacing to each fight and plenty of on-screen presence from Captain America and his versatile shield attacks.
Next Level Games have tried to do something much more daring here.
Between the fights though things aren't quite as impressive. While I enjoyed the flexible design of the brawling mechanics the platforming and puzzle levels are frustrating and at times nonsensical. While Batman would often make me nervous about wondering what was going to happen next, Captain America was more laughable than suspenseful.
This made me realise how well rounded the Batman game is, not just in the mechanics and level design but all the little touches. It creates a world that feels full of life and movement and makes you want to explore it, and does that without you really noticing it.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy Captain America a lot. This could have easily been another derivative movie tie-in like Thor and Iron Man before it. Next Level Games have tried to do something much more daring here - although they obviously have had to balance this against a tight timeline (particularly in comparison to Arkham) with having to hit the movie release date.
A great stop-gap before Batman Gotham City arrives.
Compromises have had to be made, but they have been the right ones. Even though I don't relish the platforming and exploration as much as I might (I'm not going to mention Batman again) the fun of the fights are more than enough incentive to keep me playing. They serve as a real reward for getting through the slower sections.
Talking to my friends about it they seem to agree - apart from one girlfriend Justine who's always been really into Captain America. She is so excited to be able to play as Cap in the game that nothing else seems to matter and will have nothing bad said about the game at all.
This says it all really, if you are a massive Captain America fan, or want to relive the movie than this is a great option. If you are not, you need to be happy to put up with the slower sections. Overall this is a great stop-gap before Batman Gotham City arrives - just don't let Justine, hear me say that (ed: Too late - publish).
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