Do try this at home
Supposedly, I have a hero complex—and I guess it’s pretty clear to almost everyone I meet, because I get told that all the time. But am I really a nice guy or just an attention whore? I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist; I play videogames for a living. But whatever the case, one game that might help me with my complex is the surprisingly enjoyable PowerUp Heroes.
The game puts you in direct control of your Xbox 360 Avatar. You’re just going about your digital business when a spaceship crash-lands in front of you, and—in a scene that hearkens back to Hal Jordan’s origins as Green Lantern—a dying alien warns that a menace to the galaxy is on its way to Earth. Only by accepting and mastering this extraterrestrial’s potent power will you be able to overcome this global threat. But just as you accept, the scourge arrives and bestows his own evil endowments to easily manipulated individuals who’ll do all of this nefarious evildoer’s dirty work. So, utilizing an almost Mega Man–style boss-selection mechanic, you must defeat all these other power-wielders and absorb their skills before ridding the world of this unknown menace once and for all.
After acquiring everything from fire to psionics—that’s telekinesis, Kyle!—I’ve come to the conclusion that it feels really good to be a superhero. Or, it does while playing this game, at least.
The combat feels how I’d imagine a Kinect fighting game would control; by performing easily demonstrated special moves like electric whips or fireballs—or jumping in for some close-quarters fist-to-face (my fist, their face) melee combat—PowerUp Heroes responds so well to your motions that your powered-up avatar can become like a wrecking ball at times, figuratively bowling over your opponents. Of course, this is also somewhat of a negative—once you learn enemy patterns, there’s little actual challenge to the short campaign, as you begin collecting powers simply to put them on display like a hunter might show off a 30-point buck.
Another downside—besides the fact that it’s similar to most other Kinect entries in that the gimmick wears off quickly due to the simplicity—is the fact that you can only use two powersuits at a time. Although you can cross powers to pull off interesting and devastating combos, this severely limits your in-game arsenal and may force you to start battles over—since, much like a Mega Man game, some bosses are weak against certain elements and resistant to others. But can you imagine how hard a time Mega Man would have if he could only carry two weapons at a time? Some sort of quick-change motion or menu would’ve been appreciated here.
To help overcome the lack of depth provided by a simple single-player campaign, PowerUp Heroes also features a versus multiplayer mode, which allows you to take on friends and family either locally or online—and put your skills and reaction times to the test as you attempt to counter each others’ moves. And with the limited power sets available, you’re provided a true test of one’s superhero mettle—and Internet connection. With special unlockable costumes that reference other Ubisoft franchises (like a Rabbids suit), PowerUp Heroes isn’t a bad bang for your buck, especially when you consider the solidly responsive controls and that high feeling of satisfaction that comes after killing a yak from 200 yards away with mind bullets. But players who want a real superhero complex are probably going to be looking elsewhere—read: Batman: Arkham City—to satiate their needs come October 18th.
SUMMARY: Short and simple—yet surprisingly responsive and satisfying—PowerUp Heroes is worth checking out if you’re a superhero nerd.
- THE GOOD: Now posing like a superhero means something.
- THE BAD: Like many Kinect games, the gimmick gets old quickly
- THE UGLY: Me in superhero tights