Up, up and then back down again
Whether you love him or loathe him, everyone knows Superman. He has to be the best known super-hero in the world and is arguably the character all other heroes are judged by. I'll hold up my hand as one of the fans of the guy with the red cape, but there are limits.
Historically, Superman games have been dire, with a few exceptions (I liked the side-scrolling arcade game, for instance) and no hero love can redeem bad gameplay, however great the hero. Chillingo, then, are fighting against history in an attempt to release a Superman game that is actually playable and fun. Can they do it or is Superman destined to fly from bad game to bad game?
After a brief hiccup where you're asked to download the HD artwork (though this is optional for 3GS and lower devices) Chillingo's game starts well enough. A nicely drawn but static comic book scene sets the story and introduces Lex Luthor, up to no good as usual. All the usual hallmarks of a Superman story are there, from Lois trying to uncover the real story to the Clark/Superman dual identity, but it seems lacking in detail and comic fans will probably be left wanting more.
Cut to Metropolis, where Superman hangs in midair, expectantly awaiting your command via the on screen virtual controls. The left side of the screen presents you with a standard analogue stick and the right has options for fire and speed. The fire button changes dependent on context, with the standard option being heat vision/laser and then changing to a blast of cold air when near fires. For the most part, the controls work pretty well, but steering when flying at super-speed is pretty challenging.
The tasks Superman will need to perform range from fighting drone spheres and Lex's attack choppers to putting out fires in Metropolis apartments, stopping rogue missiles, catching falling asteroids and apprehending two-bit robbers. The last task is an interesting one as you can seemingly fry these criminals with your heat vision, which is something that goes against Superman's morals and seems a little out of place.
At first this provides a great deal of variety to the game, the first five or six missions all have various tasks that require different approaches. As you start getting further in to the game, however, they begin to repeat themselves frequently. The repetition soon sinks in and no amount of heroic background music (which, to give it some praise, is pretty fitting) can liven up yet another attack of the drones.
It doesn't get much better in the art department, either. Even with the HD artwork, Superman isn't exactly the best looking game on the App Store. Metropolis soon becomes a tiresome row of tower blocks, fading in to Lexcorp towers and only the lure of flying in to space every so often to stop another falling asteroid breaks up the monotony of the city. Sperman himself seems to be a watercolored, or at least watered-down, version of the caped hero we all know and his range of movement seems rather stifled for an action hero. Only the comic strips help break the drab look, and these don't feature often in the game (though they can be unlocked in the Extras section to view them again).
But despite all the negativity, Superman doesn't quite sit among the other dire games to feature the man of steel, it still has some charm and is certainly playable in short doses. High scores are presented with the aim to be beaten (though with no attempt at a proper high score table) and gold, silver and bronze awards can be unlocked for the right scores.
Ultimately, though, Chillingo's Superman doesn't live up to the lofty reputation of the man himself. It's playable, but nothing super.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 5
- Gameplay: 5
- Longevity: 4
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