One type of games we like to feature on Co-Op Casual Fridays are those based on movies, comics, and television shows. In particular, games that are kid-friendly are fair game. The title of for consideration today, Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer (henceforth abbreviated FFRotSS) is a game based on a movie based on a comic book, and that movie was rated PG, so the game is certainly appealing to the younger set. The best thing about FFRotSS is that it's available in bargain bins everywhere (I picked up my copy for $8 shipped), but is it worth playing? Is this "The World's Greatest Game Based On A Movie Based On The Word's Greatest Comic Magazine? Or will it have you bashing your controller on the ground with the cry: "IT"S CLOBBERIN' TIME"?
I have to be honest with you: I had intended to write this article in my Stan Lee voice, with lots of "Excelsiors!", "True Believers!", and exclamation points. But after playing the game for a few hours, I decided it just wasn't worth the effort. FFRotSS scrapes the bottom of the barrel as far as video games are concerned. It's as if the designers did just enough in the game to make the screenshots look adequate, and to include lots of bullet points on the back of the box. There are a few good things about the game, but they are buried by the avalanche of bad, even horrible decisions that playing FFRotSS feels like a chore.
So what is done right? There's four player co-op, unlike the game based on the first movie. Playing locally, you and three other hapless victims can take on the roles of Marvel's First Family. The game feels quite similar to Marvel Ultimate Alliance: same perspective, same button presses to use special powers, even a rudimentary upgrade system. Switching back and forth between teammates is easy enough. There are even combo attacks, like those of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. FFRotSS came out a full two years before that game, so that seems impressive. But since there are only four characters, the combinations are fewer in number and certainly less awe-inspiring than those of the more recent game. The storyline loosely follows the plot of the movie, but adds in some elements from the comics, such as the Skrulls, the Red Ghost, and his monkey minions. These attributes, few as they are, are the bright spots in the game.
Unfortunately, it all falls apart rather quickly beyond that. The environments are horribly bland and extremely repetitive. A secret base in a volcano, New York's rooftops, and an abandoned space station are hardly the exotic locales the Fantastic Four typically hang out in. The same crates, doors, switches, and textures are repeated ad nauseum. Graphically, the game is merely passable, and the cut scenes are among the worst I've ever seen in my gaming life. FFRotSS barely even looks like high definition title. If the Xbox 360 version looks this bad, I wonder if the PS2/Wii must look like it runs on an Atari 2600.
Gameplay elements are not much better. Basic attacks are all pretty much the same, the special powers range from incredibly useful (Thing's ground pound move, Torch's fireball) to "only useful to solve a puzzle" (Mr. Fantastic's stretch punch, Invisible Woman's entire skillset). Each level has two, count 'em, two different generic enemies: a small one, and a big one. The boss fights are horribly underwhelming. The first is against the Super Skrull, one of my favorite villains, a shape-changing alien who has the combined powers of each member of the Fantastic Four. I would have thought it was impossible to make a boring fight with such a great enemy, but FFRotSS proved me wrong. The strategy to beat him is to avoid him, and throw his minions at a giant ball of energy supplying him with a force field. When the field drops, hit him twice, then repeat. It's a total snoozefest.