For some reason, super hero movie tie-in games seem to fare better than most other video game cash grabs. I don't know whether this is because the development teams have more passion for these characters or if Marvel, DC and the like expect a certain amount of quality when their intellectual property is digitized.
Regardless, it appears that Thor: God of Thunder managed to fly right under their radar when it came to console title quality (read our review). Does the portable edition fare better? Read on to find out.
It is worth emphasizing that Thor on the DS is a drastically different title than its disc-based counterpart. Thor: God of Thunder is a 2D, side-scrolling brawler, and by all accounts is a fairly competent entry in the genre. It does not hold a candle to other recent brawlers such as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but it holds up.
The gameplay revolves around a combo system using Thor's all-powerful hammer, Mjolnir. The Thunder God dashes the length of the screen(s), hurls enemies into the wall, jumps in the air and comes crashing down on top of them. Once he has killed enough creatures, his God Power bar rapidly fills up allowing players to tap the bottom screen and unleash a destructive blast of the elements - effectively wiping out a screen's worth of baddies.
As rewarding as all of this is to watch, the execution is more than a little lacking. I cannot speak for the any of the other reviewers who have generally been praising this game, but my experience consisted almost entirely of collecting the enemies against the side of the screen and relentlessly pounding on them before they were able to stand back up. In typical brawling game fashion, enemies fall down, after taking a certain amount of hits, but the sheer frustration of fighting the trolls in hand-to-hand combat was enough to alter my strategy into keeping them on the ground at all times.
The key here is that Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, has a range that is just slightly smaller than any other enemy's range in the entire game - whether they are armed or not. The amount of times I stood just out of reach of an attacker, wildly flailing my hammer 6 inches from its face, was enough to sour the entire experience for me.
I do not want to take away from just how much variety a more patient player can find within the seven act campaign. Thor's strength allows him to pick up both the smaller enemies as well as columns littering the levels - and even husks of the larger fallen creatures. This can allow for a much more dynamic playthrough - for those who are willing to experiment with the plentiful options for combat.
Of course, the saving grace for the game was undoubtedly the dual screen boss fights. WayForward has done gamers an enormous favor by opting to create a title that spans both the top and bottom screens, making the attractive environments more visible and impressive. This layout truly shines when Thor is forced to face off against bosses of such a large scale that the fight not only requires both screens, but even the camera has to back off to allow the monsters enough room. These boss fights are easy to adapt to, have entertaining patterns, require Thor to change his battle tactics, and feel like a fair challenge, all of which the other enemy fodder fail to offer.
The story is expectantly simple: monsters are invading the realm of Asgard and Thor has to put a stop to them. Along the way, he is tricked by his brother Loki into believing that Sif has been kidnapped by the trolls. Loki cause untold damage through his trickery, and it becomes Thor's responsibility to stop Mangog and save the day across several worlds. The cut scenes are short and to the point, preventing the player from getting bogged down in the rather uninteresting tale. We are playing a Thor game for the action.
Thor: God of Thunder is an interesting beast to tackle. Its problems are blatant and consistent, with a repetitive combat system, countless pallet-swapped enemies and environments, and a threadbare story. I was able to forgive most of these issues when I would take breaks from my sessions and start a new chapter - and it was almost worth fighting through the more snore-worthy levels to reach the amazingly well-realized boss fights.
If you are on the hunt for a competent 2D-brawler for your DS or 3DS, Thor might be able to quench that thirst - until someone else steps up to the plate with more robust and compelling competition. One thing is for sure: it is a heck of a lot better than the high-def console version.
Thor: God of Thunder is available now on all platforms except for the PSP and PC.
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