January 1, 2013
The story is actually pretty decent. It sets to retell The Secret Invasion comic-book storyline. In a nutshell, the Skrulls invade Earth and it's up to our mightiest heroes to stop them. You'll only get a glimpse of the overall story, as the game's campaign will last you the better part of two hours - it's rather insulting.
There are 5 maps, each containing 10 levels that are all completely identical. You're given your team that you will fight, and you'll face Skrull doppelgangers of the character roster. It gets tedious after the first few rounds. Aside from the main story there's tournament mode, arcade mode, challenges and trials for individual characters and cooperative play.
The game has a modest sized character selection, with 20 Marvel characters including Thor, Hulk, Loki, Spider-man, Wolverine, Storm, Doctor Strange, Venom and Doctor Doom. Since the roster itself shows this game has ditched the idea of being Avengers-centric, it would have been great to see more Marvel characters incorporated; it's not like they're starving for choices. What's worse is that they even show you characters like Iron Fist in the cutscenes, but for some reason didn't want to include them.
To say the gameplay is formulaic and simplistic would be an understatement. Now, to be fair this is a game that was made for the Kinect, so I wasn't expecting it to be incredibly deep; I just hoped that the transition to a console with button input would have made for more of a rethinking on how the game is played. Instead, combat is done almost entirely on the Gamepad by swiping the screen in various curves and shapes.
Every character has 3 "unique" attacks and two standard attacks, but there's also a meter to build for ultra moves or the break attack which works well in a pinch. The core mechanics are based on Rock, Paper, and Scissors. Your three moves all work well against one attack and are vulnerable to another. You can chain your attacks into a total of five hits, making use of what your character has to offer, and tagging in your partner to continue the chain. When it works, it's pretty cool to see the tag-team effect, but it's rarely needed as some individual attacks can deal a lot of damage, and the enemy AI is rather dumb.
The game does monitor your progression and there is a leveling system that rewards you with alternate costumes and, well, the rest of the roster. You are given 9 characters to start, with the remaining 11 waiting once you complete all 50 levels of the game's story.
The graphics certainly shine, as models are incredibly polished, and while the environments aren't going to wow anyone, they get the job done and are varied in design. One thing that's worth mentioning is that the game is meant to be played from the Gamepad screen, which is the most peculiar design-choice I've seen.
Ubisoft put a lot of effort into making the game look pretty, but it's spoiled when you're forced to look at the Wii U's tiny Ggamepad screen all the time. I only found out after tinkering that you are required to own a Wii Remote to see the game on a TV. Sounds absurd, right? You don't know the half of it. You don't need the Wii Remote to necessarily play the game, although you certainly can; it's to access a gigantic button your TV displays as you're in a match that can switch the game's camera. Ubisoft didn't think about using one of the many buttons it doesn't use on the Gamepad to allow players to switch camera modes, and instead forces people to either buy a different controller, or use one they probably aren't using all for the sake of seeing your game on your TV. The game teases you by showing the opening cinematic, and the main menu on your TV, but the moment the game play kicks in it just switches to the Wii Remote-exclusive menu, that can't be altered, so you'll need to continuously switch the settings every single match.
One of the most frustrating things about a handful of Wii U titles is its over-reliance on its predecessor's controller. Perhaps Nintendo made the false assumption that everyone who bought a Wii U must have owned a Wii? I know I didn't, and I know people in my immediate circle didn't either. I jumped on the Wii U ship head first and was excited to play these games with the Gamepad or Pro Controller. It's sad that the Wii Remote gets more thought and attention than the Pro Controller, as most evident in games like New Super Mario Brothers U, which requires at least two Wii Remotes to successfully play local multiplayer. I have 3 different controllers for the Wii U, and there is no combination that allows me to experience a game's muiltiplayer mode. That's a pretty big design flaw, and one Nintendo needs to pay attention to and fix.
Overall, this game has guilty pleasure written all over it. It may be repetitive to its very core, but you can have some fun with it. Characters are polished and nicely rendered, and it has a bunch that I really like. The game itself would have worked better as a network title for a budget price. The asking price is just far too much for what little the game offers.