Developer: Griptonite Games
Imagine if Traveller's Tales were set up like a football team. Now imagine if their reserve squad attempted to make a child-friendly version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Got it? You've pretty much nailed Marvel Super Hero Squad in that case. Based on the US cartoon of the same name, the first game was very much a Weekday cartoon in game form - child-oriented and significantly less awesome than the stuff that got shown on Saturday mornings. It featured short and squat caricatures (but totally not made of LEGO) of some of Marvel's finest, duking it out with supervillains, and it wasn't very good.
Thankfully, The Infinity Gauntlet is actually pretty damn playable. It's still pretty repetitive and banal in places, but it's a very difficult game to dislike.
Treated as a tie-in product, The Infinity Gauntlet stands up pretty well. With the Super Hero Squad cartoon following the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, it all blends in rather nicely, and there's lots of fan service for followers of the series. Classic heroes like Iron Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Sue Storm, Spidey, Captain America and Thor are in there, along with...erm...She-Hulk too. Black Widow turns up alongside a few other Avenger types, as do Magneto's kids.
Things play out a bit like a dumbed-down Ultimate Alliance, with your usual crop of jump, block and attack buttons (though fewer of the latter), and one special attack that varies from hero to hero. Hulk can smash up walls, Iron Man can interface with terminals and hack things, Sue Storm can fire up teleportation portals. You don't get to pick your characters for each level, they're limited until you've unlocked the the free play mode, but that does at least add some replay value to the game. Much like the LEGO games, it encourages players to go back and explore previous areas with new characters.
Iron Man and Hulk are in outer space just doing some boots shopping for Thor's birthday, when the boots they ordered get mixed up with Super Skrull's laundry. Clerks, eh? It's so hard to find good retail help these days. What then ensues is a big chase involving the two heroes, Thanos and a whole bunch of Skrulls, until they manage to escape through a portal into Thor's bathtub. It turns out that Thanos is looking for Infinity Gems to power the Gauntlet and rule the galaxy and the Super Hero Squad has to stop him. The story will probably cause physical pain to die-hard comic fanboys, but then again this game really wasn't made for them. It's surprisingly funny, often cheesy and gloriously wacky.
Unfortunately, the game itself is a bit of a let down. Combat is dull and relentless repetitive, the puzzles are rather poorly designed slogs or irritations rather than anything else, and the AI companion is thicker than four short planks, let alone two! Your best bet is definitely playing this one in co-op. You can switch characters if you're playing by yourself, but the nature of the puzzles means that invariably what should be fun turns to tedium and then, of course, there's everybody's favourite uninvited guest: Captain Arbitrary Time Limit!
Ultimately, The Infinity Gauntlet offers up a certain amount of innocent fun. If you give yourself over to the silliness, you'll find that it proves more than charming enough to balance out its flaws. But again it's difficult not to feel that with a little bit more thought and a little bit more care in relation to how it actually plays, this could have been something to truly rival Traveller's Tales' impressive cornering of the market, and a game for all ages. An improvement, then, on last year's efforts then; but there's still room for more.
- Charming and fun in parts
- Large roster of superheroes and villains
- Mark Hamill!!!
- AI partner awful
- Repetitive combat
- Puzzles uninspiring
The Short Version: Mediocrity in children's games is an unnecessary evil and, although an improvement on the previous instalment, there's still some way to go for the Marvel Super Hero Squad series. That said, it is genuinely funny and charming in parts and is certainly one of the better examples of kids-oriented titles around this Christmas. Sure, it has a few issues, but Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet has plenty enough charisma to warrant a look.