Hey, it’s the God of Wa… Thunder?
“Ymir was a frost giant; he was evil from the first. While he slept, he began to sweat. A man and woman grew out of the ooze under his left armpit, and one of his legs fathered a son on the other leg.”
[image1]That’s a quote from my copy of The Norse Myths, as translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland. How does one leg father a son on another leg? I don’t think any of us wants to know, but you have to admit that’s some damn intriguing storytelling. Here’s one of my personal favorites:
“At last they attacked Ymir and killed him. His wounds were like springs; so much blood streamed from them, and so fast, that the flood drowned all the frost giants except Bergelmir and his wife. They embarked in their boat – it was made out of a hollowed tree trunk – and rode on a tide of gore.”
Isn’t that just beautiful? This is the kind of stuff that I love about mythology and, not coincidentally, the lack of it is in part what turns me off to Marvel’s version of Thor. Seriously, have you ever met a person who’s said Thor was his favorite hero? You’re more likely to hear She-Hulk or Ant-man.
If the Marvel Comics Thor had the same grotesque imagery and the oddly poetic and verbose prose as the mythological one, he wouldn’t seem so generic among a sea of hundreds of other brightly-clad heroes, capes billowing, fists flying, and garishly shiny armor…shining. And given the source material, it’s no surprise that Thor: God of Thunder is an overall generic experience.
The game follows a recent trend that I’ve noticed with movie games lately—the plot remains separate from the actual movie, which in general, I think is a wise move. In this case it’s tough to tell whether it’s a prequel, sequel, or simple side story; I don’t actually think anyone cared enough to make the distinction anyway. It’s your basic tale of revenge gone wrong: Thor goes on a rampage to destroy Ymir in retaliation for a frost giant attack on his home of Asgard, but he inadvertently wakes up the terrifying and all-powerful Mangog, who apparently has a bit of a grudge on Odin and the Asgardians.
[image2]Thor comes equipped with all the powers of Asgard’s mightiest warrior: control over thunder and lightning, earth-shattering strikes from his hammer Mjolnir, flight (only when necessary), and the ability to speak in the third-person while applying arrogant adjectives to himself. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston from the motion picture lend their voices as Thor and Loki, respectively, and capture their characters well.
Thor may be one bad mother, but he has to earn the more devastating moves and upgrades, purchasing them with experience orbs dropped by enemies. Sound familiar? I feel like I’m saying this way too much about a lot of games lately, but Thor also copies a whole lot from God of War.
You execute most of your moves with the 'A'-button and swipes of the Wii-mote. The combo meter in Thor is actually pretty cool—instead of just awarding you more orbs, it actually affects combat significantly. Once you rack up a combo to a significant milestone (every 10 hits, usually), certain moves get powered up. The large horizontal sweeping attack, for example, hits for an extra swing with almost double the radius as long as you’re at 20+ combo hits. Later combos can even summon extra magic attacks at no mana cost.
And even more like GoW, larger enemies and obstacles can only be dispatched with quick-time events that have you mashing 'A' or waving the Wii-mote in specified directions. Thor also borrows the tendency to have lots of repeating enemy types, which doesn’t go over too well when those enemy types are bland to begin with.
There are a small handful of flight sections, which play fairly arcade-y and are just simple matters of dodging projectiles while spamming lightning at everything you see. That’s really the only thing to break up the monotony of the endless enemies; one important thing that Thor didn’t take from GoW are the mild puzzle and platforming challenges interspersed with the combat segments. Every level in Thor is really just composed of a linear series of rooms and hallways where you fight bad guys until either the door opens or there’s enough of a lull that you can force it open yourself. A few more intricate boss battles would have been nice to add some flavor to the gameplay, but by my count there’s a grand total of three real bosses in the whole game.
[image3]Thor is also sorely lacking in lasting appeal. The story takes 4-5 hours to finish, with no other modes than a simple practice arena. There are some genuinely hard difficulties; however, you can literally switch difficulties at any time. Even in mid combo. Is that giant laser about to hit you? Why don’t you just pause, switch it to easy to take the hit, then switch back? I love variable difficulties within the same playthrough of a game, but when it’s this variable there’s nothing to stop you from cheesing through the difficult parts, ultimately making the “hard” difficulties rather hollow.
You can find and unlock some hidden concept art throughout the levels, which is about as thrilling as it sounds. The best bonus on the disc comes in the form of a full episode of the 2010 animated series The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. One guess as to who the star of the episode is (Hint: It’s not Captain America or Iron Man).
There’s really not much to get excited about with Thor for Wii. The copycat gameplay is sound and fun enough not to be instantly grating. It will be in the long-term, though, when you realize there’s really nothing else to do other than mindless combat with generic enemies. With nothing to really hold your interest after completing the very short story mode, Thor: God of Thunder strikes more like a small spark than a bolt of lightning.