Superman: Shadow of Apokolips

Gamestyle Archive Intro: Alex takes us into the dubious territory of an Atari Superman title. This dates from November 2002.

Shadow_of_Apokolips_Box_Art

Superman, eh? We like the films (as everyone does, right?) and even the cartoon series has it’s merits, but the games? The Nintendo 64 played host to what is widely regarded as one of the worst games in existence, and this reviewer would personally rather play ET on the Atari than relive the dire experience of said title.

Thankfully, there’s an even better option – the brand new PS2 Superman game from Infogrames, which bases itself around the aforementioned animated series and provides not only a decent representation of the Superman world, but it’s also suprisingly good game in itself. Not immediately, mind, but then that’s why you’re reading Gamestyle – the game’s clunky at first as you get used to the controls (much like Activision’s Spider-man, if you will) but once you’re a few half-hours into the game things start to even out, although the game’s numerous ‘little’ bugs will always be there niggling into the immersiveness of the adventure: there’s some horrible clipping and even worse, there’s invisible walls all over the place, and not just around the boundaries of the level causing much confusion and straining the already struggling camera. However, if you can overlook these issues, the good bits of the game will shine through.

Good bits like the inclusion of Clark Kent as a playable character (in his less Super role), Livewire Parasite, Metallo and Lex Luther as baddies and a wide variety of special powers, all of which add to the Superman-ness of the game, even though it’s mostly the Heat Vision power you’ll be used to come the end of the game such is the way the other features are played down. These powers are also finite in their use, although resting them for a little while allows them to recharge, reducing their effectiveness to a more strategic level rather than just constant use. Alongside Breath Blast (which acts as a short range weapon) and the Heat Vision (which is similar) there are other moves including Speed Dodging (complete with motion blur) and the game’s first person moves such as Super Vision (with zoom) and X-Ray Vision, although to be honest it would have been handier to have such a perspective as a more playable feature – particularly given the third person camera has some real problems inside buildings – rather than just a standing still mode.

Superman can also pull off Super Power Moves by holding down two face buttons, and there’s such a move for when he’s walking, hovering and flying. Of course, Superman can also punch, lift and throw objects (but not friendly civilians, sadly) and these can be used to solve the games puzzles and against enemies. Flying’s the best bit of the game, though, and whilst it’s not easy to track enemies and hit them as you’re required to do (especially early on) it soon becomes instinctive and chasing the bad guys around the (admittedly large) playing areas is great fun. Things turn sour when you’re back on the ground though – there’s never much more to do than run around and punch identikit robots and that horrible camera returns with a vengeance, although the game’s lock-on feature (a quick tap of L1) goes someway to help the gamer keep the screen on what’s actually attacking him.

Whilst Superman: Shadow of Apokolips often plays out slightly ignorant of the advances currently happening in the games scene (and hence resorts to almost retro-like tasks, such are the simplicity of what you’re asked to do) it’s quite pretty in places, and certainly faithful to the cartoon series it models itself around with some great cell-shaded characters, a fairly smooth 30 fps frame rate and some decent animation. It’s not all good, though – some textures are quite low resolution and there’s a fair amount of repetition, especially on the buildings and walls. Rest assured that the music’s directly taken from the TV show, though, and most of the voices retain the same level of authenticity.

One for the fans of the series, then, but to the rest of us it’s entirely average – fun for a while, and then it’s over – Shadow of Apokolips isn’t anything new; it’s not genre defining; it’s certainly flawed and there’s not a great deal to do, given the relative ease (and low number) of the missions in the game, but it’s without a doubt a far superior game to it’s N64 older brother (and it’s preferable to playing ET, too).

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

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