Game Name: Thor: God of Thunder
Platform(s): Nintendo DS (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Genre(s): Action/Beat-em Up
Release Date: May 3, 2011 (US), April 30, 2011 (EU)
The whole concept of games created to release alongside a blockbuster movie is certainly nothing new these days. The problem is that many titles are rushed to make a certain date, resulting in a somewhat lackluster experience. Thor is the latest to get the video game treatment with all the familiar faces from the Marvel comic book in tow. Instead of going for updated gameplay and 3D character models, Wayforward have taken a step back and made the Nintendo DS release a 2D side-scrolling brawler which is sure to capture the attention of those who grew up gaming in the 90’s. So how does this different take on the a movie tie-in fare? Here is my review for Thor: God of Thunder for the Nintendo DS.
Right off the bat I can say as this is being written, I have still yet to see the theatrical release for Thor. That really isn’t needed here though as the plot is told surprisingly well as small text-based encounters with other characters throughout game set the scene for what’s ahead. Many hardcore Marvel fans (or those that simply have seen the movie) are sure to instantly spot some familiar faces here such as Loki, Mangog, and Odin to name a few. Players take the role of the God of Thunder himself, armed with his trusty Mjolnir as he treks through in a battle to save his beloved Sif and take out the many ice giants, trolls, and other evils that await.
The whole game does a fantastic job of bringing a more 16-bit approach to it’s narrative and keeps everything focused more on the gameplay while still carrying a half-way interesting plot and capturing the theme for the franchise wonderfully in the process.
As I mentioned, what truly separates the DS version of this title from it’s console brethren is the actual gameplay. Thor: God of Thunder is a side-scrolling beat-em up that reeks of a 16-bit atmosphere from beginning to end. That being said, there is quite a bit of extra elements to enhance the overall experience. Thor’s main weapon is his hammer, the Mjolnir. The Mjolnir is mainly used as melee weapon, which by tapping the Y button lets you hammer down foes as they approach. A combo system is also in place which lets the generally weak attack gain strength as it is used for one smash-tastic hit at the end. While it can get a bit old after a while, this rather simple attack is pretty fulfilling to perform and does it’s job well for taking on a pack of trolls or ice giants at any given time.
Thor can also charge up and throw his Mjolnir at will, with the charged version of this attack dishing out more damage and sending the enemy to the ground nearly every time. A dash attackis available which quickly lunges Thor into a foe, but I honestly found the more simple attacks more useful. As you bash up enemies and proceed to the next area, valor is gained which eventually enables a God-like attack, striking all on the top and bottom screen with a massive thunder, wind, or force attack. I had plenty of fun using each of these techniques, but the true money shot in your arsenal is the grapple attack in my opinion. Just about any enemy can be grappled (though rather large ones require a bit of button-mashing effort), in which Thor quickly heaves the enemy above his head. The awesome part about this technique is that you can either be boring and simply toss the baddie away, or you can literally carry the unsuspecting creature throughout the level, using it as a weapon. Pillars can also be used with this method as well, in which Thor will rip a structure from it’s roots to smash enemies into the ground. This was actually one of the most useful techniques I found in the entire game and made me feel like I was actually controlling a powerful deity.
While the 2D elements are prominent at all times, Wayforward have certainly went out of their way to utilize both screens. That is due to the fact that each stage plays out on both for the whole experience. Any time it is required, Thor can leap into the air and onto the top screen to reach platforms, bash winged enemies, or escape from an overwhelming threat. The transition between screens is executed so seamlessly, it eventually becomes more of a second thought as both screens work together to paint one giant scene.
At times, the game can be quite repetitive as the attacks generally all look and feel the same but Thor does try to redeem itself with a small upgrade system. Throughout each stage, pick-ups known as runes can be acquired and equipped to enhance abilities such as melee attacks, throws, and Thor’s god-like powers. Up to three can be used at once and the changes are pretty noticeable for the most part giving the intended boosts promised. Admittedly, this doesn’t completely stop the monotony, but it does offer a slight reward for exploration of the linear environments while opening up a few extra options for combat in the process.
With the end of each stage comes an intense boss battle. Generally, the variety of enemies are pretty limited and a change of sprite to fit an environment is about all the change that is offered throughout the game. Boss battles however end each stage with fantastic climax and are a wonderful incentive to progress through. From large monsters to a more standard size foe, each battle requires a different strategy to destroy, adding a huge wind of fresh air into the rather repetitive system. For example, there is one huge ice creature that rears it’s head in which you must literally get inhaled into it’s body to destroy his icy core. Of course that is just an example, but I found each boss to be quite memorable and a pure pleasure to encounter due to the fine detailing that went into crafting this system. The utilization of both screens takes center stage for these battles here as well, making these battles all the more epic.
Being a licensed 2D DS title could have been a bad thing, but the level of detail given to Thor graphically puts it on the same level as many of the AAA franchises for the handheld. Sprites are finely detailed down to the small marks on enemies weapons, and each animation runs fluently and I never once encountered a hiccup in gameplay due to the polish provided. Environments are also a fine production as the stunning background scenery are all layered with the foregrounds, creating a full, active scene to do combat in. Mountains, icy cave walls, and dried up, cracked floors also stick out to add even more depth to each area, making each stage feel more different from the next.
If you are a fan of those catchy tunes that played on some of the memorable 16-bit classics, you will feel right at home with Thor as that is what is presented. As far as audio goes though, the true champion of this game were the sound effects. Each time you smash your hammer onto an enemy or use your thunder power, you hear that loud thud or crack, and those small sounds definitely helped make the whole combat system all the more rewarding.
Thor: God of Thunder is what I would like to see from now on out of licensed titles. Yes, it is a 2D brawler, but so much detail went into the game that truly sets it apart from the usual rush-jobs we see in the market. The full utilization of both screens worked well and boss battles all were a nice finish to each action-packed stage. While the gameplay still suffered from some repetitive mechanics, it still remained simple and fun for the whole experience. Those who are looking for a more classic approach for their DS library should not let Thor fly under radar as this Thunder God provides a “shockingly” well crafted licensed title that will surely incite some feelings 16-bit nostalgia.
I Give Thor: God of Thunder for the Nintendo DS: