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Marvel Superheroes 3D: Grandmaster's Challenge Wii promises much - 3D effects, five heroes big enough to have their own movies, and a host of villains - but turns out to be little more than another repetitive Wii party game.
3D is all the rage at the moment, with more and more movies requiring the wearing of tinted specs in the cinema, and a big push to get 3D TVs into the homes of wealthy early adopters.
Marvel Superheroes 3D doesn't use the kind of 3D that requires special televisions and magic sunglasses, instead it uses the old one eye red/one eye blue cardboard glasses, in this case built into five charmingly cheesy superhero masks that come bundled with the game.
Sadly, the 3D doesn't work nearly as well as the lenticular cover art that's also included in the game's oversized outer packaging. While some effects, like the Grandmaster's big wavy hands, work well in this type of 3D, at other times it's more of a blurry mess, with the two parts of the image clearly separate even while wearing the mask.
Fig 1. 3D Clapham
Leaving aside the 3D gimmick, the game is left to stand or fall on it's own merits. It is, essentially, a board game, with four out of a five playable Superheroes - Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man and Wolverine - kidnapped by cosmic supervillain the Grandmaster and forced to move around a circular, tiled... well, board. Players move by spending power orbs, with a randomised element dictating exactly where they land. Some tiles have benefits or penalties, while others lead to challenges.
It's these challenges that are the most impressive bit of the game. They're on-rails, first person superhero action sequences where your chosen hero runs/flies through a Marvel comics landscape, fighting off enemies and dodging hazards. These bits are quite graphically impressive for the Wii, and there's something novel about slashing with Wolverine's adamantium claws or wielding mighty Mjolnir in first person.
In terms of the stories and characters of the Marvel universe, this is actually all fairly authentic.
Challenges earn orbs, and orbs can be used to advance around the board or attack a central dome. Once the dome is broken, the game is over and the heroes go home. It's a party game, basically, with a simple game mechanic and the challenges in the place of the usual minigames.
In terms of the stories and characters of the Marvel universe, this is actually all fairly authentic. All the characters look right, with a clean simple style that's straight out of the booklets Marvel give to licensees wanting to make, say, Spider-Man pyjamas. The Grandmaster has always been a plot device for contrived comics stories where heroes play ridiculous games, so the storyline is pretty much authentic.
By the standards of Marvel's crossovers in the 80s and 90s, the game's nonexistent plot and flat dialogue are entirely appropriate. Just because it's character and genre appropriate doesn't make it any good though. Authenticity is no defence when you're being true to something rubbish.
It doesn't help that Grandmaster's Challenge is incredibly thin gruel, both in terms of gameplay and execution. The first person challenges are interesting, and look pretty good by Wii standards, but they're the simplest of gestured based, Simon Says exercises in responding to on-screen prompts, and there are only a handful of locations and villains used. It all gets very repetitive, very fast.
Apparently anyone who might enjoy it isn't allowed to.
While the graphics are solid, the sound is weak, with the same music tracks repeated and no dialogue beyond a variety of evil chuckles for the villains, and even those repeat to nerve-grating effect. The witlessly functional, text-only dialogue saps any remaining life from the character interactions - without spoken dialogue, the players are left listening to looped music and there's no real sense of character to either heroes or villains.
I can't reiterate enough how irritating those repeated villain laughs are. I mean, really irritating.
With only three variations of board to play - and on a play through of each, the main difference seems to be one of rising difficulty and torturously lengthening difficulty - there's not a whole lot of content here.
As a party game this might just be passable, but it would have to be a party for very young players with a taste for Superheroes, as the challenges are too basic to trouble anyone teenaged or older.
As the game is bafflingly rated 12+ for violence (presumably so that younger children aren't unduly influenced to smash Sentinels with their adamantium claws), apparently anyone who might enjoy it isn't allowed to.
While there's a nugget of interest in those first person challenge sequences, Grandmaster's Challenge is a failure, a thin slice of gaming disguised in an over-sized box. One to avoid.
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