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Imaginary Heroes: Marvelous Characters and How to Be One

Imaginary Heroes: Marvelous Characters and How to Be One

Ever wondered if Superhero games were really good? Ever decided to have a peek at what Superhero games are around at the moment? Here's a quick look at them.
Roy D'Silva
I have read them, you have read them, and we all have wanted to be them. Comic book characters, or superheroes, to get your complete attention, have always been a work of passionate fantasy and interesting fiction. Ever since I read my first comic book, I always wanted to don a cape and run around town saving that blonde damsel in distress. But I didn't have the guts to have myself bitten by a spider, nor were my sidelocks so funny that scientists wanted to inject me with admantium, or whatever it's called. Also, nor did I look good with green (or blue) paint splattered all over me.

So, the first chance I had to be a superhero was when I was introduced to computer gaming. Call me a wisher, but arcade games didn't satisfy me. I was waiting for 3D games, and when they happened, I wondered if there would be a slew of superhero games. Sadly, not many were made, and out of them too, almost none would satisfy a guy in the '90s who had just come back seeing 'The Matrix' or something.

Maybe it the fact that gaming companies were scratching their heads thinking whether superhero fans would like to play a game, where one could only see Spider Man's hands, with the web slingers et all. Maybe gaming companies were still wondering about the viability of creating an entire superhero, right from his boots to his cape in spell-binding 3D, to make a superhero game.

Well, it's said that experimentation is the best way of finding out, and experiment they did. Which brings us to the singularly standing out, worst piece of computer gaming, most badly prepared program, most inane artificial intelligence to ever hone game racks.

Bat Man: Vengeance. I played it on the PC, and am still wondering where the triangle button on my keyboard. Mind you, I wasn't holding any copy, it was an original, box-packed copy of the game brought from a gamestore. To put it simply, the programmers were so lazy that they didn't even create this game for the PC platform―they simply rigged it to work for it.

Batman: Vengeance suffered what most superhero games suffered during that time. The gaming company put all their labor and logic bandwidth on the character, and did nothing for the game. So, we had a Bat Man who could do almost anything we have seen in the comics, the cartoons, and the movies, but not simple playability. Bad is not an adjective that supports the quality of Batman: Vengeance. Pathetic will just about start the paragraph for the gameplay of the game. Colossal failure will be a term that will jam the 'Find' tool in a document about Batman: Vengeance.

So, so much for DC trying to port its most famous superhero into the digital age, now, what was Marvel doing about it? Marvel quickly learned, and at least had respectable titles for their superheroes. One such was Spiderman. This was before the entire world wanted to be bitten by a spider after watching the movie. This game was one of the many that were ported from a PS2 or PS1 or whatever was in vogue at that time. Though the game was unplayable by casual gamers, it still kept up the spirits of the players, and more often than not, the game softened up to players who'd spend time with it.

Even so, these games left a lot to be desired. Spider Man, of course, pulled up his webbed red boots and came in other good games. But why only Spider Man, what about the rest of the Marvel Characters? I am sure this must be a question asked by many others, some who even mattered. So the question stood: We have so many Marvelous characters. If we go about making a game for every one of them, we will have to make a game studio of our own. How do we satisfy our fans? (insert how do we cash in on the superhero hype?).

Then dawned the answer: Dungeon Crawlers.

Dungeon Crawlers are basically games which have a 'point and click' interface, and are supremely easy. Mostly, there are around four or five characters who have to accomplish tasks, gain level points, eliminate bosses, the works. These games fit perfectly in the Marvel Universe, what with around two hundred of their superheroes wreaking havoc around Stan Lee and associates to get their tan under the digital sun.

One of the first successful Dungeon Crawlers to ever hit the market and become a cult favorite was 'Diablo'. Am a big fan of the franchise, more of that later. Microsoft Game Studios furthered Diablo with 'Dungeon Siege', and then came up with a spanking new game engine for 'Dungeon Siege II'. On a quick note, Microsoft already has its game studios, and word is that Windows Vista is slow even on spanking new computers with 2 GB RAM cards. Would a graphic card specially made by Windows work? But Microsoft isn't yet into hardware, right? Uhmm... interesting.

So, if you are asking what medieval swords and sorcery games have to do with Marvel superheroes, here's the answer―X Men: Legends. X-Men: Legends proved that superhero games were a viable source of income, provided people invest in the characters as well as gameplay, and of course, keep a good enough script. The gameplay was simple enough for anyone who had a talk with the Paladin in Diablo II.

X Men: Legends had some fifteen Marvel Superheroes, with the top of the rack Wolverine being available from the beginning. This game was a runaway success, and thereby started the nod to superhero games. X Men: Legends had a sequel, X Men: Legends II: The Rise of Apocalypse (their title, not mine), which was a successful success in itself.

Because Marvel believes in doing and repeating whatever it has done on a larger scale, they came up with 'Marvel: Ultimate Alliance'. Yes, you guessed it right, the big daddy of them all. More than a hundred characters from the Marvel Universe, all at your beck and call. I have been trying to play this game, but sadly my RAM doesn't breathe as much life into the game as it should. So, I haven't gone past the first level, but it seems promising enough for me to go and order a RAM.