Justice League Heroes
(Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; PS2, Xbox, PSP, Nintendo DS)
GAMER The best game to feature comic book heroes to date is Marvel vs. Capcom. Here we have heroes from the DC universe gathered together as the mighty Justice League, ready to stomp the guts out of fiends doing dirt. Pretty colors, special moves, funny dialogue, and a solid two-player mode combine for an entertaining gaming experience, but it's not quite as fun as reading the comic books.
The story for Justice League Heroes was written by Dwayne McDuffie, who worked on the excellent Cartoon Network show Justice League Unlimited. He did a great job creating a story arc and added some genuinely funny material. The basic story: The Justice League has possession of a meteor. The meteor is communicating with Braniac, who is doing major damage all over the place. So the Justice League goes to work, and as you might expect, they get the job done. But then there's a twist. Surprise is a nice game feature.
JLH was developed by Snowblind Studios, which is also responsible for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. Like Dark Alliance, JLH is a dungeon crawler, a format typically reserved for D&D-type games with ogres, wizards, and other magical critters. Throughout the game, you play as various Justice League heroes: Superman, Batman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter are all in effect, and more characters and costumes can be unlocked during the game. The costumes actually influence each character's abilities and special moves, which adds to the game's replayability. In general, the heroes go out two at a time. You get to switch from one to the next by pressing a button, and whichever hero you're not controlling will fight by your side with the help of fairly good AI. Unlockable characters include Aquaman and Hawkgirl. The two-player mode works well and makes the game move right along, because any time you die, the other player can revive you.
Game play is solid if somewhat simple. Hand-to-hand fights are best handled with button mashing, but special moves, like Batman summoning a swarm of bats, add dazzling cinematic effects. Each character has a mega and a super-mega attack mode. You can make the heroes who can fly do so by jumping and tapping a button. Unfortunately, they only fly a few feet off the ground. When you hit the button after jumping with heroes who can't fly, they do a flip in the air or sort of glide slowly to the ground. The environment is destructible, so you can wing lampposts at villains.
Overall the game is fast paced and will probably hold your attention, thanks to a good story, funny one-liners, and a sweeping orchestral soundtrack. But comic book enthusiasts and nonnerds alike, beware: this game is so-so so use your awesome judgment. Of course, it'll be worth playing for megacomic book fans, because any chance to interact with and even control one's heroes is worth taking. Casual gamers will also enjoy the two-player mode, and fashion fiends will love the costume options. (Nate Denver)