By now you should also know that I am a sucker for a beefcake in tights, but this year’s games featuring these sexy super-dupers left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I already had a good time with Captain America: Super Soldier for the DS, so I saw a glimmer of hope when I fired up the Wii version of the same game. What I was treated to was a surprisingly fun adventure game that was only hurt by a few poor artistic decisions, minor design flaws, and the glaring omission of any gratuitous Chris Evans body shots.
Players will control Captain America as he traverses the vast castle-turned-military-compound that is Hydra’s (the bad guys’) headquarters. The game focuses heavily on hand-to-hand combat and has adopted a play style such as that found in Batman: Arkham Asylum. There is, unfortunately, no evade button but a simple jump is usually enough to get out of an overwhelming situation. The B button on the Wii remote controls the Cap’s punches and kicks, while the Z button on the Nunchuck is used to initiate a counterattack. You will know when to do the counterattack when you see the Z button icon pop up over an enemy’s head. Getting your combo up to a certain number will trigger a special attack from Captain America, which involves him bashing the hell out of his opponent while pretty red white and blue disco sparkles shoot out in every direction. It’s so patriotic it’s hard to suppress the urge to stand up and recite the pledge of allegiance.
Once you defeat each of the vile Hydra goons, you will be rewarded with a heart or two that refills some of your health and some stars that serve as the game’s experience points. When the experience gauge is full you get to select one of three upgrades for Cap. One upgrade with either be for the shield or to help you find hidden collectible items, the other will be an enhanced combat move, and the final option will be to increase the number of items you can lock on to for a focused shield throw. Overall the combat mechanics worked well and were very fun, but didn’t seem quite as fluid as similar games. Players will often find the Captain kicking and punching at thin air if their foes get too far away, and sometimes projectiles were difficult or impossible to deflect when walking which proved to be quite irksome.
Captain America’s iconic shield gets a lot of use in this game, most of which are way more practical than using it as a serving platter for snacks at my world renowned Sex and the City viewing parties, which is all I would be able to do with such an item. You can use the IR pointer in the Wii remote to aim the on-screen reticule at a target and press the C button initiate a quick throw. This was useful for a wide range of activities from flipping switches to stunning an enemy. Also, the C button on the Nunchuck may be held down and Cap enters a sort of “focus mode” where time slows way down and you can lock on to targetable items in the environment which will then be hit in the order in which they were targeted. The shield can also be used to deflect projectiles back at a target by holding the Z button down on the Nunchuck and aiming the reticule with the Wii Remote. It is recommended that players spend experience to upgrade the shield to reflect energy weapon shots as early as possible or there will be some very frustrating enemy encounters later on. As a whole the shield felt incredibly important and useful, just as one would expect from a Captain America game.
Aside from curb checking Hydra scum, a lot of time spent in Captain America: Super Soldier will be spent platforming and figuring out how to escape the various and incredibly elaborate rooms in the castle. The platforming is kind of frustrating, and almost feels like the development team at High Voltage had no faith in the player’s ability to handle things on their own. To execute Captain America’s feats of acrobatic awesomeness you simply need to face the object you would like to leap to or grab on to. Once you are close enough, a white arrow or an A button icon will appear to let you know where you will land or grab. Then you simply press the A button and watch Cap flip and fly to his destination. What is disappointing about this is that, other than during these auto-piloted sections, Cap feels as crippled as Joan Rivers’s face after a Botox OD. He has a vertical jump of about a foot and a half and that’s about it. Trying to escape a room is also frustrating, because the solution usually involves nothing more than finding a hidden switch and reaching it without dying. Compounding this problem is the act that you can only control the left and right movement of the camera, meaning half the time you won’t be able to see your destination.
High Voltage took a very questionable approach to the art style of this game. All of the characters look like they’re missing a couple handfuls of polygons, even by the Wii’s standards. They are also very strangely proportioned, with blocky and wide shoulders and waists so tiny they’d make a Barbie doll jealous. Captain America also had freakishly large hands and big clown feet. It isn’t as realistic looking as movie games usually are, and isn’t as cartoony as a comic book game could get away with. On the other hand, the areas in and around Hydra’s castle looked nice and polished and the areas felt appropriately large in size. In the sound department we are treated to good and believable voice acting and music that would be right at home in any action-adventure movie.
When playing Captain America: Super Soldier it’s easy to see that High Voltage and SEGA tried really hard to raise the bar for not only movie tie-in games but super hero games as a whole. In a season that has been chalk full of games that were super-poopers It does fall a little short in terms of design and playability, but it is still overall a fun game to play. This was a great game to get me over the disappointment laid on me by the other super heroes this summer. With Batman: Arkham City and an Avengers movie that is bound to have an associated game, it is easy to hope and imagine that the tide is turning for super hero games. Perhaps we’ll get more titles that make this genre something that’s playable instead of something that’s a joke.
[review title=”Captain America: Super Soldier” pros=”This game tries really, really hard to be a good super hero game. Combat is usually pretty fun.” cons=”Character models look goofy and the ‘hand holding’ for platforming segments and puzzles are annoying.” verdict=”This game at least falls into the top 5 super hero games, which is saying a lot considering it’s connected to a movie license.” score=65]