Bad Pun #1: It’s Hammer Time
Oh movie-tie in games. You are the videogame equivalent of that one extra drink at the bar. It seems like a great way of continuing an experience you enjoy, but the decision to circum to temptation always ends up being filled with regret and the occasional spew of vomit. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule like the excellent PS2 Spidey sandbox experience Spiderman 2, but even that title suffered from the rushed development and monotonously repetitive gameplay that gives the whole genre a bad name. Liquid Entertainment’s Thor: God Of Thunder is actually a decent example of the movie tie-in game. The developers took the style and format of the beloved God Of War series and plunked it into the world of Thor and Asgard. The combination works and there are times when plundering through legions of villains with Thor’s mighty hammer that are pretty damn sweet. But then you do it over and over again long past the novelty wearing off. If you desperately want to swing around Mjolnir and come into the game with the lowered expectations that tie-in titles demand, it’s certainly not an excruciatingly painful experience. But it also doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell competing for game of the year.
Bad Pun #2: Play Till Your Thumbs Are Thor
In a nice change of pace, Liquid Entertainment didn’t just ape the plot of the movie for this game. Instead, it’s a prequel of sorts, allowing you to see events in the world of Asgard that lead up to the plot of the film. Frost Giants have broken into Asgard causing all sorts of problems for the buildings and citizens (mainly that they’re getting the crap kicked out of them). Hungry for vengeance, Thor sets out to vanquish all evildoers across all realms. It’s an ambitious quest, but he’s an ambitious guy…er god. Unfortunately he’s got that slimy little brother Loki who tags along and tries to use the situation to his advantage and get some of that power he craves. What happens from there is pretty predictable and minimal story-wise. Whatever plot is required to set up the next round of godly battles gets spat out quickly and efficiently. Chris Hemsworth and Thom Hiddleston lend their voices to their movie characters Thor and Loki, which is nice, but they clearly weren’t as emotionally invested in the couple of days they spent in a recording studio working on the game as they were shooting the movie (unsurprisingly Anthony Hopkins doesn’t reprise his role in the game. I guess he had better things to do with his time, like…say…anything else). Since the story delves into Thor mythology not covered in the film, characters from the comics who didn’t make it into Kenneth Branagh’s surprisingly successful film adaptation worm their way into the story. Being a casual Thor fan at best, I can’t really comment on how effectively or truthfully these characters used, but I’m sure the hardcores will get a kick out of it.
Gameplay wise, you’re looking at a straight up God Of War rip off. This is a third person action game where you beat up wave after wave of enemies. There’s a mini-animation to signal when the last enemy of the wave was killed and little quicktime events pop up to finish off bosses and mini-bosses. It’s a pretty shameless adaptation of the God Of War formula, but it also works well for the similarly myth-based Thor universe. Thor has hammer mele attacks, throws, grapples, and a variety of special attacks involving thunder, lightening, and wind. Combos figure heavily and additional moves, upgrades, abilities, and costumes can be unlocked as the game goes on or purchased through an achievement menu. Pretty basic stuff sure, but it works and it can feel damn good. Much like the aforementioned Spiderman 2, by the end of the game it can feel like you’re in control of the god of thunder at full force and there is a certain amount of undeniable geeky joy to be had there. In particular, the enemy killing cut scenes are damn entertaining and despite the toned down ratings-friendly violence, can be pretty badass.
Unfortunately those moments of joy can feel few and far between. The game establishes a formula in the opening levels and sticks to it for the duration. Take down a wave of enemies, do it again, do it again, do it again, do a little platforming, fight enemies again, fight enemies again, possibly solve a simple puzzle, fight enemies again, and then fight a boss (which often involves fighting normal enemies as part of that process). There may or may not be a few cinematics tossed in there depending on the level, but you get the idea. It gets old pretty fast. The big bosses can be fun (if sometimes ridiculously easy), but it can take so many repetitive drone battles to get to them that you’ll frequently loose interest before it happens. The game should take about 7 or 8 hours to complete and then you can play through again with upgrades in tact to continue the upgrade process, if you feel so inclined (I believe that impulse might be called masochism in some circles). Had the game been a little shorter, it probably would have been more entertaining, but I guess it would also give people reason to complain about value. There’s no multiplayer option, so don’t even think about that.
Visually, it’s a mixed bag. Some levels and cut scenes are gorgeous given the inevitable time constraints of the project, while others would be embarrassing for a PS2 game. Part of the reason probably has to do with the fact that the game was designed for the Wii as well, so visuals were kept in check for that conversion. That Wii version also features exclusive flying levels, which might be fun, but I can’t imagine this game being any longer than it already is. The sound effects and music are solid, but nothing to write home about. Like everything else in the game, the graphics and audio are slightly better than expected for a tie-in game, but nothing special.
Bad Pun #3: Movie Tie-in Games Are A Pain In The Asgard
So there you have it. Thor: God Of Thunder is decent based on the Special Olympics standards of movie tie-in games, but nothing that should make you run out to the store to buy a copy. In fact, without the comics n’ movie licensing, this title would be a total write off. However, if you’re a Thor fan and seeing the film made you desperate to continue exploring the character in other media, you could do worse. Ripping off the God Of War formula was entirely appropriate for the character and there are times when tearing through hundreds of enemies will make you love Thor as much as that kid in Adventures In Babysitting. Unfortunately, it all gets pretty old, pretty fast and I can’t imagine actually finishing this game if I weren’t assigned to do it. The game is decent rental fodder for fans, but should only be purchased if you’re a Thor completist. Oh yeah, and the game is in 3D as well if you have one of them fancy glasses televisions. However I’d imagine it’s just as tacked on and pointless as the 3D in the Thor movie.