NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 07/05/2013
After the Superman Sudoku puzzle game they put out on the Game Boy Advance, I didn’t know what to expect from EA’s Superman Returns game on the Nintendo DS. This handheld version is an ambitious action-board game hybrid that has a lot of interesting ideas that didn’t quite the right level of polish to match its ambitious ideas.
So how exactly did EA turn a Superman game into a board game you might ask, well let me explain. The bottom screen of the game is a hex based grid and Superman’s “piece” is represented by his iconic “S” symbol. At the start of the game, every space on the board is gray and you claim parts of the board by moving to disaster spaces or by landing on the spaces where a villain resides. You have fifteen stamina pieces per turn and it costs different amounts to move on certain spaces: one for Superman claimed spots, two for gray spots, and three for villain claimed spots.
When you land on a disaster spot you have to complete a timed mini-game to gain more of the board, and if you fail you’re moved to a random space on the board. Like Superman Returns on Xbox 360, Metropolis has a power meter that depletes after every turn if villains and disaster spaces are left on the board and when the meter reaches zero, the game is over. There are quite a few games to play, though most of them take placed in the same three or four environments recycled over and over again. Objectives range from flying around putting out fires, leveling falling buildings with your super breath, moving civilians out of danger or Star Fox like flying sections where you have to avoid debris and make it to the end before time runs out.
The mini-games are fun for the most part, but some are unnecessarily difficult due to the games loose controls, strict time limits and vague objectives. Even on easy you can run out of time trying to accomplish some of the harder challenges, such as any that involve using your super hearing to pick up audio ques that boil down to dumb luck or the Bizarro spaces where everything is upside down and inverted. I appreciate the authenticity of the backwards Bizarro world, but not when it comes to the detriment of your game.
Superman Returns on the DS follows somewhat the plot of the film with brief text based cut-scenes. Periodically you’ll also have to do story based missions, like where you have to race to the plane with Lois in it to detach it from the space shuttle which is a mission that oddly enough isn’t in the console game. You’ll also run into Superman foes like Metallo, Parasite, Mongul, Brainaic and Bizarro however each boss fight is a simple mini-game where you have to hit corresponding face button as it falls down screen and none are terribly challenging.