|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: n-Space||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Caleb Newby
Oh, superheroes. Who doesn't love a good turn as a stylish do-gooder with a complicated and sordid history? Our culture can't get enough of these guys, and no entity is as popular today as Marvel's cast of heroes and villains. So it makes sense that publisher Activision would follow up 2006's wildly popular Marvel: Ultimate Alliance with a sequel, shockingly titled Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. The question is, how doeos Marvel's heroes fare on Nintendo's portable system.
MUA2 offers a nice pool of playable characters to choose from. There's your expected Spiderman, Wolverine, Iron Man, and Captain America's but also a few lesser known surprises. She-Hulk makes a somewhat unexpected appearance, making the argument that two ticked off green agents of destruction are better than one. My only complaint when it comes to the wide variety of characters to pick from is how each character feels similar to the next. The Hulk feels like Wolverine. Yes they look different and have unique attack types, but when you boil it down, both are fairly interchangeable as a frontline tank, and one would be hard-pressed to care which was used.
The animated cutscenes are fantastic, used in to tell the story in comic book fashion between chapters. It's bright and vibrant, and some of the dialogue is chuckle-inducing to boot. Unfortunately, the in-game graphics are a little substandard for a DS title. The upside is superheroes are extremely colorful individuals, making them easy to tell apart at a distance. Still, the beauty of the cutscenes has an unintentional effect of providing a sporadic reminder that the in-game graphics aren't quite what would be hoped for.
Voice acting is virtually nonexistent, getting the job done while adding nothing special. The musical score, on the other hand, is a nice surprise and successfully adds to the game's feel. If we don't get to hear Spidey quips voice acted, at least we get some nice music to cover the silence.
Gameplay is the biggest pitfall in Ultimate Alliance 2. Camera work often leaves something to be desired, ranging from slightly annoying to downright aggravating. Using the familiar isometric, third-person view, all too often you are left with a sticky camera that doesn't want to move. It's common to be stuck behind a wall and blindly moving and attacking until you make it to a sweet spot that repositions the overhead view. Clipping is also a problem. On a few occasions, I found myself stuck between stationary NPCs and unable to escape if not for the ability to switch to another character in the party and allowing the AI to shake itself loose from confinement. What would have happened if my super-powered allies were not around I do not know - I suspect I would still be trying to double jump my way to freedom in vain. I somehow doubt that is the type of computer-assisted AI developer n-Space had in mind.
As is nearly always the case, it's better to have friends connected wirelessly as your allies over relying on the computer-controlled AI. Beyond the fun factor of teaming up with some pals, your squad-mates should be several times better at conserving their superpowers and abilities for the right situations. It's enough to make even The Hulk scratch his head in bewilderment when someone like a computer-controlled Iron Man goes off using strategic powers at inopportune times. You'd think Mr. Stark would know better.