Captain America, Super Soldier (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
There's something about a well-crafted movie trailer, which has you counting down the days until the cinematic outing. Captain America certainly got my attention this summer and the mixture of perfectly executed action sequences and incredible production design had me pre-booking my seat some time before the late July release date. To be fair, the movie did actually tick all of the Super Hero boxes and it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. All this leads us to the inevitable game tie-in and, unusually for me, I've actually seen the movie before playing the game but what's it like.
I had reasonable big expectations for Captain American but the resulting game in a simple, linear, action/platformer with very little to separate it from the majority of movie tie-in's. The levels involve a great deal of running, jumping and combat (with enemies who appear from nowhere) and a handful of 'end-of-level bosses' all of whom appear to attack you in the exact same way. The gameplay only becomes mildly engaging when you are confronted by one of the many puzzle sequences that will block your path. These are presented as a kind of 'mirror game' where you must use your shield (and perfect timing) in order to bounce off the various 45-degree angles to activate a switch. None of these are likely to cause you any problems but they still present a welcome distraction to the main game. One other, rather odd, gameplay style is 'the chase'. This is a 'push' level with Captain America forced to run and jump (from left to right) in a kind of basic Super Mario mini-game. There appears to be little reason for these other that to demonstrate that, as a Super Hero, you can now run fast and jump far. Go figure.
Captain America is a platformer, at it's core and if that was all it offered then there's no doubt this would be a far more positive review with the Captain himself very responsive as you force him to scale walls and jump from one platform to another. Sadly, there's also a fair bit of combat involved here and as soon as it comes to fighting the Captain really shows his weak points. It's not the various moves themselves, you understand, and throughout the game you'll be able to build up a comprehensive selection of combos. It's the fact that they are not really effective against some of the more determined henchmen meaning you'll repeatedly rely on your shield (from a distance) in order to survive. This all starts out so promising too but after some experimentation, not to mention repeatedly restarting levels, you'll quickly discover the shield is the only way.
Frustratingly, there is a problem relying on this single form of defence and using your shield does not increase your 'special attack' meter at the bottom of the screen. Once full, this can be incredibly useful when you are confronted by a group of enemies. You can choose to use two different attacks too and the Patriot Mode (when the meter is half full) forces the Captain to run 'off set' while the shield does it's thing to anyone on screen while the Serum Mode (full meter) gives you super-human strength for a limited time.
While there's some very nice environments here, there's not nearly enough variety and the action appears to take place in either the streets of Europe or the Mountaintop Lair with the majority in the latter. Even more disappointing are the character models, which appear blocky and lack the required amount of animation frames you'd expect from a Super Hero or even a dumb henchman for that matter. Elsewhere the overall presentation has been kept to the bare minimum and don't even get us started on the bland (and mostly useless) touch-screen.
One aspect of most DS titles, which is often overlooked, is the audio but not here. In fact, it's some of the best voice acting to accompany a handheld title this year with each and every line expertly delivered. The sound effects are also well crafted, as is the rousing WWII themed score which plays thought the game. Impressive stuff.
Captain America features the age old 'how can we use the touch-screen' question. Well, the developers have at least tried but what you are presented with is three separate interactions, which are generally required to open doors. These range from spinning your shield, with the stylus, to hitting three smaller shields at the correct moment in a kind of Elite Beat Agents mini-game. All sounds a little dull doesn't it? Well, it is.
If you have actually seen the movie, the first thing that will disappoint you is just how much they have missed out here. There's no train section, no chase through the streets of Brooklyn and the whole game is devoid of the charm and humor of the big screen outing. What you do get is a great deal of combat but because this aspect of the game is so incredibly flawed, you'll end up simply throwing your shield at everything that approaches you. It's disappointing really and Captain America is yet another movie tie-in, which feels like it, was thrown together in time for the movies release. Let's hope the 3DS version delivers an experience worthy of a Super Hero when it's released later this year.
Pro: Impressive amount of Spoken Dialogue, Great Music, Collectable Vintage Costumes
Con: Flawed Combat System, Poor Animation, Repetitive Gameplay
Final score: 5.8