Our heroes are the size of ants!
Do you enjoy reading comic books on the john? How about playing a button masher while you’re waiting for ma to pick you up from your latest failed job interview? Or maybe games with deep stories that explore the meaning of life? If you answered yes to the first two questions, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance may be the game for you. Just don’t expect any compelling answers from it.
If you played either of the X-Men Legends
titles, you already know what to expect. If you haven’t, Ultimate Alliance
is your standard hack and slash game, except instead of hacking and the slashing, you’re punching and shooting. You and your team of superheroes (up to four at a time) advance through a very linear environment while kicking the behinds of countless enemies and tackling the odd puzzle here and there. It’s hardly ingenious stuff, but the game still manages to be fun.
What sets this title apart from other dungeon crawlers is that you have two dozen superheroes from the Marvel universe at your disposal. These range from our beloved Spidey and Wolverine to the more obscure Ms. Marvel and Ronin. There are some balance issues, though, as some heroes are truly super, while others are about as useful as poop on a stick.
The game begins when Doctor Doom and his minions attack an airship, and it’s up to you and your superhero buddies to stop him. You begin on the heli-carrier (that would be the airship), but soon enough you’ll find yourself battling in places like Asgard, Atlantis and other locales in the Marvel universe.
The combat has been tweaked from Raven’s previous offerings and now most moves have a couple variations that help spice up the button mashing. You control one character at a time (with the ability to switch to any of your other party members on the fly), while your teammates are handled by the AI.
On occasion, you’ll stumble onto a puzzle (and I use the term loosely) that will serve as a short break between the fighting. These puzzles, however, are so simple and cliché (moving blocks anyone?), they’re barely worth mentioning. The bosses of the various levels are battled via button tapping mini-games (think God of War
) that help set them apart from regular encounters and are a welcome addition.
Ultimate Alliance won’t wow you with its visuals, but its developers, Vicarious Visions, did a respectable job of bringing current gen looks to Sony’s portable. There are a couple nagging issues (the framerate stutters when there’s too much on screen and the enemies tend to spawn out of thin air), but the overall look is clean, and some very nice, eye-pleasing CG cutscenes occasionally further the plot.
The musical score is very good throughout, but the voice acting, of which there is (unfortunately) a sizable amount, ranges from passable to terrible and you’ll likely find yourself mashing the X button during conversations to skip it.
One of the best things about Ultimate Alliance is the number of multiplayer (both local and online) options you’re offered. You and up to three others can jump in for some co-op or competitive (in which you’re trying to gain more points than your friends while tackling the story mode) play, which makes all that button mashing a lot more interesting.
As an added bonus, the PSP version of the game has four bonus superheroes and three game modes that you won’t find on the home consoles. While that hardly makes the game worth buying if you already own a console version, it’s still nice to see that PSP owners got their own special treatment.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance indulges those of use with itchy button mashing fingers by giving us the opportunity to smack around a myriad of bad guys with our favorite superheroes. It has a lengthy story mode, lots of Marvel characters to pick and choose from and a the opportunity to play through again with a buddy or two. It won’t save the earth from disaster, but it might just save your day from boredom.