The Asgardian warrior Sif has fallen, and Thor, son of Odin, wields his mighty hammer Mjölnir with vengeance. His mischievous brother Loki seizes this opportunity and uses Thor's rage to engineer an attack on their home, resulting in the fall of the Nine Worlds. It's a story well suited to its mythological roots and is perfect for a video game, but does Thor: God of Thunder’s gameplay boom and rumble or diminish into a drizzle?
At its foundations, Thor solidly fits the beat-em-up formula – you'll spend most of your time progressing through linear corridors and sets of rooms fighting groups of enemies as you go. At first this gets quite repetitive, but from start to finish you'll learn, earn and unlock new moves that enrich combat and keep things interesting. Red Fly Studio makes very good use of motion controls and the interface always feels intuitive: you'll flip enemies into the air and send them smashing to the ground followed by a crushing hammer strike; you'll blow back bad guys with gusts of wind and block and parry attacks; you'll wind up Mjölnir and hurl it at faraway opponents, and more. The hit counter adds another element as well, making moves more powerful, allowing you to perform more devastating attacks or charge up your hammer with a menacing red glow.
Boss battles are nicely executed as well, and while none of them require much lateral thinking, deciding what moves to use at which time keeps you on your toes. These bosses, as well as occasional moments during regular gameplay, have motion-based command sequences that split up the action, requiring you to swing the Wii Remote in specific directions to pick up, throw or send your hammer down. It keeps gameplay interesting and instinctive, making the experience feel uniquely suited to the Wii.
On-foot stages take a break when Thor winds up his hammer and hurls himself with it, turning these moments into fast-paced, challenging on-rails airborne shooter stages. They contain enough enemies and obstacles to make things difficult and engrossing, but with a short list of possible attacks and defensive moves, they never reach the same level of depth as the rest of the game. Still, they break up the action and feel fun throughout.
Level design is generally straightforward, though certain stages are more interesting, such as when you visit Earth and must free humans from fiery buildings as you progress. Couple this with the fact that the majority of environments contain destructible elements to smash through and the game gains an added level of excitement. Most of the animated cinematics are, unfortunately, too shallow and sparsely animated, while the in-game camera is at times frustratingly restrictive. The majority of the graphics, however, look good and include a decent level of detail, with an aesthetic consistency that makes each world you visit feel unique. The symphonic soundtrack is quite impressive as well, with music of varying intensity that always suits the on-screen action.
As well as moves and power-ups, you can also unlock concept art and a small selection of costumes, and it's entertaining to find these throughout each stage, keeping on the lookout for out-of-the-way spots where they may be hidden. You'll also earn challenge stages, though these are forgettable fight-based practice levels that never feel terribly interesting or necessary, especially as combat is fairly straightforward. The game also comes with a Thor-based episode of The Avengers cartoon, and three difficulty levels, including an unlockable fourth ‘Ragnarok’ setting, to add more replay value. Thor's biggest weakness, however, is its length; all in all, you can complete the whole game in about four hours.
Thor is short and often repetitive, but it features a long list of attainable moves, combos and techniques to keep things fun and interesting. While it will never strain your brain, it's necessary to think on your feet and select your attacks and defensive moves with some level of precision, giving the action a challenging and dynamic feel. When you also consider the implementation of intuitive motion controls and some enjoyable flying-based stages, you've got an experience that's largely entertaining and captivating until the end, even if that end comes too soon.