(3DS)

Game Review

Thor: God of Thunder Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Jamie O'Neill

Does 3D Thor give 2D a hammering?

When SEGA decided to port Thor: God of Thunder to 3DS, there were two clear routes available: could build upon the DS game, a well-received pixel art 2D side-scrolling brawler by WayForward, or directly convert Red Fly Studio’s third person Wii hack-and-slash title. It chose the latter — after all Red Fly has built a reputation on Wii for fun movie licensed games, including Ghostbusters and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, so in theory its version of Thor should be empowered by the mightier 3DS hardware. However, as further fuel to the 2D vs. 3D debate, 3DS Thor demonstrates that an accomplished sprite and pixel art DS game is superior to an ill-fitting conversion of a motion controlled title, especially when it is not optimised for 3DS hardware.

Set to coincide with the Blu-ray and DVD release of the movie, Thor: God of Thunder’s story works in parallel with the DS game, travelling through 16 levels and five of the nine Norse worlds, although its plot is separate to the film’s script. The Jötun ice titans invade Thor’s home of Asgard, which sets off a trigger of events largely prompted by Thor’s rage-filled desire for retribution and his brother Loki’s weasel-like manipulation behind the scenes. If you've played the DS game you'll recognise key events, and it also shares key enemies, with the quest to capture the heart of Surtur working as a more action-packed setting for boss encounters than a direct translation of the film.

The single-player brawling gameplay starts well, with a focus on mixing power with quick attacks and building a combo meter, which provides stronger finishers as the combos increase and opens up touch screen ‘Storm Powers’ including a charged hammer, lightning storms and a cyclone. It is fun at first to knock an enemy into the air, juggle them using a light attack and crush down with Thor’s Mjölnir hammer slam finisher. Throughout the gameplay there are ‘Feats of Strength’ moments, which are essentially a button-prompted quick time event (QTE), used to break up the action. Unfortunately some boss battles, like Ymir, are over reliant on QTEs and the bosses do not really explore a mix of core gameplay and QTE until you meet Surtur and Mangog at the end of the game. Stages 3 and 12 feature on-rail flight sections, in which you use the Circle Pad and tap A to summon lightning, hold A to lock onto enemies and press the L shoulder button to deflect huge projectile rocks. However, the action in these sections is stark and simple, especially compared to what Treasure managed in Wii Sin & Punishment: Star Successor and won't satiate your appetite until Kid Icarus: Uprising.

The attempts to add diversity to the action are unsuccessful, as an awkward control set-up results in the player resorting to button mashing, especially as the enemies are just as susceptible to an unsophisticated flurry of attacks as they are a strategic string of combos. The Wii version of this game was praised for its motion controls — our review described it as “uniquely suited to the Wii” — but the 3DS conversion of the inputs feels cramped. This is true of commands that involve the shoulder buttons: holding R and then pressing Y for a hammer throw or holding L to block and then tapping X for a gust of wind does not feel instinctive. Similarly, pressing a touch screen icon to perform a lightning bolt, and then using the Circle Pad to direct the lightning is not an effective way to quickly take out a shield that protects an annoying sentry orb. You first notice control difficulties during a boss battle, as manoeuvring Thor with the Circle Pad dictates that quickly reaching down to the D-Pad to dodge is not a viable option for briskly evading attacks. Reliance upon the solid core controls becomes more dependable, hammer dashing out of the way of trouble works as an alternative to a D-Pad dodge, but adopting a simpler button mashing approach eventually contributes to the feeling of repetition.

This feeling is amplified by a regurgitation of background visuals, as the first five levels are based around ice themes on the worlds of Asgard and Niflheim, but greyish blue environments are drab and the textures are bland. Things improve later in the game as Thor’s journey to Earth (Midgard) and Muspelheim finally adds variety to the colour scheme and background design, although some of Midgard’s city models for derelict cars and battered buildings are more fitting of a DS game. The use of a fixed camera also creates problems as it clashes with the 3D effect: during level 10's confined indoor police station the walls, furniture and beams are awkwardly placed and create a jarring visual effect, obscuring the action. At times the camera positions the characters too close to the foreground, making it hard for your eye to focus on them in 3D. The 3D is most effective in outdoor environments, but during these moments the engine is prone to slowdown, the scrolling becoming jittery and the frame rate dipping. Combine this with collision detection that results in Thor’s legs disappearing into the scenery, or enemies becoming embedded in a wall, and it does not give the impression of a technically polished 3DS game. The audio is more consistent, its tunes are well suited to match the fantasy setting and voice work by actors like Chris Hemsworth help the game to connect with the movie universe.

In a similar manner to 3DS Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, Thor does not effectively capture the vigour and pizazz of a comic book hero, or dispel people’s perceptions of a middling and average movie licensed title. The game is short, despite the ability to unlock four challenge arenas as you progress through the main adventure, with all 16 levels taking under four hours to complete. The Normal difficulty setting presents no real hurdle, so it is advisable that you start this game on Hard mode, although you can unlock the Ragnarok difficulty after you first complete it. Throughout the main action you collect golden orbs to fill an experience meter, which once full earns storm tokens to purchase upgrades towards Thor’s Might, Valour and Storm capabilities. These range from new combos, and health or Odinforce upgrades, the latter of which you need to fuel your touch screen storm powers. The upgrades also enable you to earn new Runes, as you are assigned four Rune slots which are unlocked as you play through the game and each one increases Thor’s melee or storm powers. Special treats like the Rune of Surtur’s Flame are a reward after beating the game, although there are new costumes and concept art scattered amongst the levels as you progress, so it is worth using the World Tree option to revisit your favourite levels.

Conclusion

In hindsight, given the option of directly porting Wii Thor: God of Thunder to 3DS, or developing an enhanced version of the DS game, SEGA would have been better off updating WayForward’s side-scrolling 2D title. Many of the problems with this 3DS version link back to the uniqueness of the Wii game: its motion controls have not translated well to the cramped button and touch screen layout on the 3DS. The shortcomings of a fixed camera in the Wii version are also exaggerated by the stereoscopic 3D effect and the graphics engine has not been tidied up, so moments of jerky scrolling, slowdown and poor environmental collision detection are evident. There's still fun to be found: the backgrounds become more varied deeper into the game, building a combo meter from attacks against multiple enemies is rewarding and the final two boss battles are a highlight for gamers who are motivated to spare four hours to complete it.

Sponsored links by Taboola

More Stories

User Comments (19)

crazyj2312

#5

crazyj2312 said:

I wish more developers would pull an Arkham Asylum and make superhero games that have nothing to do with movie counterparts.

Milkman-123

#6

Milkman-123 said:

@crazyj2312

nicely said. arkham asylum was almost a masterpeice. arkham city will be, because its like a modernized assasins creed with batman. the problem with asylum was it wasnt in a really big sandbox. city is,s o theres much more to explore and solve. like i said, modernized assasins creed with batman.

sykotek

#7

sykotek said:

I preordered this and was waiting for it since before Thor was out in theaters. A few weeks back, I was at the store ready to pick it up when I decided to ask to look at the back of the box. It was then that I realized it wasn't developed by WayForward and got a refund instead.

Zach

#8

Zach said:

Nice review Jamie, it's a shame they decided to update this instead of the DS version. A big part of the fun originally was using motion controls, and I can't imagine trying to do it without them and still have as good of a time.

TheGreenSpiny

#10

TheGreenSpiny said:

This sucks. I had hoped they would have retrofitted Wayforward's game for the 3DS. I may end up getting the DS game then.

TeeJay

#11

TeeJay said:

Is it a requirement that every movie have a mediocre game version or something? Don't they see that they don't sell well?

BulbasaurusRex

#14

BulbasaurusRex said:

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II isn't that fun. It's decent, but it's terrible compared to the first game that was done by Chrome.

JamieOStaff

#15

JamieO said:

@Zach Thanks mate, I enjoyed reading your review of the Wii game, it was helpful in my research towards reviewing this version. There were signs early on that Wii Thor: God of Thunder had not been optimised for 3DS, for example the bottom screen menu selections do not even work with the touch screen. I did not exactly expect the free version of the Thor themed Avengers animation to be in 3D, but they could have worked on the cut-scenes to take advantage of the unique 3D capabilities of the hardware.

@BulbasaurusRex I thought that the inclusion of motion controls for Force powers in Wii Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II were fun, the four-player fighting game in that title was a welcome addition too, at least it showed that Red Fly were putting extra effort into the Wii version.

@Retro_on_theGo Yep, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game on PSN is ace, it's both respectful to the license and an homage to classic side-scrolling beat-'em-ups, especially Konami's colourful and expressively animated arcade games like TMNT: Turtles in Time and The Simpsons Arcade.

@crazyj2312 and @Milkman-123 I fully agree, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a benchmark for the standard that can be achieved when a developer truly understands the intricacies of a comic book hero and is brave enough to extend beyond the confines of a film license.

On that note it's worth mentioning that I have just finished writing a review of a DS game, one that I consider to be a swan song title for the system. It goes live today and is a good example of a developer expanding upon a movie licence and fully understanding why fans love the film. In this case it continues after a classic Sci-fi flick. The review goes live today, can you guess what it is yet?

brandonbwii

#16

brandonbwii said:

@koops3
HA! Then what's the remaining 2% Goldeneye and Riddick?

@NintendoLife
I have to disagree with the whole "DS version is great" comments. It was functional but not fun. It WAY to repetitive even by brawler standards. Wayforward has done much better.

BulbasaurusRex

#17

BulbasaurusRex said:

@15 Yes, there's some fun to be had with Force Unleashed II, but for anyone who's tried it after playing the excellent first game, the second one was a big disappointment (I'm talking about both Wii versions, here). Only using lightsaber motion controls for special attacks, continually shaking the nunchuck to use Force Lightning, a Force power that let you automatically kill most enemies, no Force power combos, the very annoying stealth enemies with tons of health, terrible bosses, and the short length (and the story, which wasn't their fault) of the game were all downgrades from the first game, and the Wii exclusive multiplayer mode is just as good in the first game. The only things it improves on from the first game are the ability to jump straight to any stage you've beaten to replay them, lightsaber amputations, and the Force Mind Trick power.

brandonbwii

#18

brandonbwii said:

@17
You forgot the nearly impossible-to-use force grip where you use the pointer to grab an object and then flick the remote to throw it. The latter would've been better served on the B-trigger.

JamieOStaff

#19

JamieO said:

@BulbasaurusRex and @brandonbwii Fair play, you guys clearly know your stuff regarding Wii Force Unleashed II. In some respects it is the type of game I would have liked to have reviewed, I am a massive fan of Star Wars, I am a sucker for the premise of any game set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It would be good to talk about it in more detail with you, if we had a review as a starting point for discussion.

I can't compare it to the first game on Wii, because I completed the first one on PS3. The thing is, Force Unleashed II is a year old now, so it is not a priority for review. Never say never, though.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...