This is part of a planned effort to poke around the dark corners of the video game library, and dig up titles that may have been missed over the years. This will either be to hold them up as pinnacles of what a game should really be, or to warn you to burn all subsequent copies and bury the resulting satanic ashes in a deep, deep pit at the bottom of the ocean.
Occasionally, a game comes along that really depresses a gamer, for two reasons; first of all, it’s bad, and second, it could have been so good.
Superman Returns, based off the blockbuster motion picture, is one such example. The game, to put it in exceedingly technical terms, sucks. What’s worst, though, is that chances are your hopes are actually going to skyrocket when you first pop the game in the ol’ disc drive.
As the game starts off with trying to stop a meteor storm from destroying Metropolis, (an interesting innovation is that Superman himself is completely invulnerable, but the city itself has a health meter, necessitating you carrying out the daring do to save it,) and the first few moments are of pure joy. With a press of a button, your admittedly poorly rendered Superman flies hundreds of feet up in a split second, soon affording you a bird’s eye view of the streets of Metropolis. Flying itself can be just as fast, with your character seeming to constantly accelerate; you will run out of city long before you run out of speed. You’ll experience the joy of breaking the sound barrier, rendering everything a deathly calm as you zip above the rooftops, covering entire blocks in no time at all.
And this is where the game rather abruptly betrays you.
While Superman has a variety of great powers, from his great strength, superhuman running speed and flight to his super breath, freezing breath, and heat vision, the things you get to use these weapons on are… er… less impressive. Robots, these odd dragon creatures, the game is essentially filled with a mish mash of pseudo-Final-Fantasy random encounters.
I am not kidding. Group of monsters appear in one section of the city, you fly over, dispatch the villains, and before you can take five breaths ANOTHER group of monsters appears in another section of the city, necessitating your flight to once more rescue the city that seems to keep getting itself into peril.
Occasionally this monotony will be broken with a burning building you have to put out with your super breath, a mission in which you have to protect giant helium blimps, and a boss battle here and there. You get to fight a Giant Metallo, which sounds cool at first, but this battle consists of having to keep away from him, throw cars in his general direction, and then fly over to a missile that he shoots at the city, triggering a cut scene of ‘you’ stopping the missile.
This, of course, is still infinitely better than the final boss. I thought that having to fight Lex Luthor sans powers, or a mini-game wherein you have to lift the smegging mountain of kryptonite would be bad enough. I was so incredibly wrong.
You fight a tornado. Yes, a tornado. You use your super breath to blow it away from the city. Then you fly inside it, (er, rather, a cut scene of you flying inside it plays,) after which you have to alternate your heat vision and freezing breath to dissipate the tornado.
Ironically, the one enjoyable part of the game is wreaking chaos on Metropolis; your super breath, properly charged, can clear an entire street of traffic, sending cars flying like tinker toys, and flying around really is enjoyable for a little while. You can pick up a car, throw it further than the eye can see, and then see if you can catch up to it before it hits the ground. If they’d at least made the latter a mini-game, they might have gotten a few hours of bearable game play out of it.
But, no, the only real mini-game is a timed mission where you play Bizzaro, Superman’s doppelganger, and wreak havoc on Metropolis with your heat breath and freeze vision. This would actually be a lot more enjoyable if it wasn’t timed; you have a certain amount of time to rack up points, and then it’s back to ol’ Supes.
Don’t rent this game, and only buy it if it’s in the dollar bin; the only reason I’m suggesting you buy it at all is that it does, in a way, have some small replay if you get particularly bored. Being Superman is still enjoyable, especially if you decide to wreak glorious havoc.
P.S. I haven’t mentioned the plot because I can’t think about it without sobbing…