Can the Man of Steel overcome his video game demons with this iPhone and iPad adventure?
Superman has quite a dark history when it comes to video games, from Titus Software's infamous Superman 64 to Electronic Arts' marginally better (but still disastrous) Superman Returns. Suffice to say, the Man of Steel has yet to achieve the success of his DC Comics' counterpart, Batman.
Chillingo hoped to reverse his fortunes with the aptly titled Superman, an 18 level romp through Metropolis featuring escaped convicts and enemy robots. The verdict? Eh.
The company set out to create a casual friendly Superman title, and in that respect, it succeeded. The game's relatively short stages give players the chance to pummel bad guys in just a few minutes a day.
There's also a variety of other tasks to complete, like chasing down (and destroying) a rogue missile, clearing spider bots off buildings and even picking up booby trapped cars and launching them into space; yes, you can fly into outer space, and it's definitely one of the app's best features.
Controls work decently for the most part. You have two context sensitive buttons on the right. Pressing the attack button, for example, causes Superman to zap enemies with his laser vision. Approach a fire, though, and he automatically switches to frost breath. Wander close to a gun-toting evildoer, and he'll punch the sucker into oblivion.
The same can be said of movement, where tapping the button while in the air instructs Superman to fly, but doing so on the ground results in super running speed. Meanwhile, there's a virtual analog stick on the left.
To that end, flying is the only thing you'll struggle to get the hang of, particularly in levels that task you with locating space debris and destroying it before the junk crashes to Earth. It's a bit easy to overshoot the target.
As for the game as a whole, although this Superman is better than those aforementioned abominations, there's little variety between stages. You always seem to track down the same convicts, punch the same comets and defeat the same robots. What's more, you do it against the same old backdrop.
The idea is to continuously replay levels to obtain a higher rank (everything works on a bronze, silver and gold system), except instead of being challenging, the entire package feels disappointingly repetitive. There's little reason to go for the gold, and this is where the developers really missed a great opportunity. Give us concept art, bonus mini games...something...to keep us pressing forward.
Not only that, but the story is about as cookie cutter as they come. Lex Luthor's up to something, Superman sets off to uncover a sinister plot. We've seen this all before, and the comic book illustrations (while attractive) do little to enhance the product as a whole.
Finally, and for some strange reason, the audio's low, even with the volume jacked up.
Don't get us wrong. Superman's still mildly entertaining in short bursts. On the flip side, Chillingo could've given this game more attention to make it one of the premier superhero titles on the App Store. That said, we'll leave you with:
"Look in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane. No, it's an update with 18 more levels, enhanced audio, new environments and challenges."
Would be nice.
Review code provided by Chillingo.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
Requirements: Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
What's Hot: Comic book style artwork, flying into space, saving Metropolis, casual friendly, just $0.99.
What's Not: Low audio, repetitive missions, paper-thin story, not universal, little reason to replay beaten stages.