Superman: Shadow of Apokolips
Game Info
Platform(s)
GC, PS2
Publisher
Atari
Developer
Infogrames Sheffield
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Cartoon-style story
• Great voice-cast
• Lots of Superman abilities at your disposal

The Bad

• Mediocre graphics
• Repetitive NPCs, sound effect and NPC comments
• Some abilities are useless
• Collision detection and controls are poorly implemented

 
Grade
C

Ever since the disaster known as Superman 64 was released on the N64, the Man of Steel has had a bad name when it comes to videogame representations. Atari has managed to take the look of the cartoon and use it to build a game that plays out like an extended episode featuring familiar locations, enemies and allies. The story has Darkseid teaming up with Lex Luthor to build an army of Inter-bots to fight Superman. Along the way, Superman runs into other villians such as Metallo, Livewire and Parasite.

The gameplay behind Superman: Shadow of Apokolips has players using Superman's abilities to defeat enemies, rescue people and even preventing certain disasters, like the breaking of a dam. At players disposal is a range of Superman's powers, including heat vision, X-ray vision, superbreath and the ability to fly at high speed. When you press up on the C-Stick, Superman with hover up off the ground. When in the air, players can use the analog stick to hover around, or fly like a plane when holding down the Right Trigger. The Left Trigger is a lock-on feature, which proves to be necessary before too long. If you press in the Right Trigger until it clicks, Superman will make a flying "Speeding Bullet" attack.

When on the ground, Superman controls pretty clunkily. Unlike games like Max Payne, where the controls are tied into two analog sticks, Superman controls with the analog stick and only strafes with the C-Stick. But, the strafe is pretty worthless, especially if you use the Left Trigger lock-on and move around with the analog stick. The A Button throws punches and allows Superman to pick up items, NPCs and certain vehicles. The B Button allows for a dodge maneuver, which is far more useful than the strafe. The X Button allows you to use Superman's powerful breath. Too bad you don't use if often to actually freeze something. The Y Button will use Superman's heat vision, which is ridiculously overpowered. I guess that's why Superman has a rechargeable power bar that depletes when used.

Hitting the Z Button will put you into first person mode. In this mode, the X Button becomes X-ray vision, another power that's poorly implemented and pretty unnecessary. As long as you have your super hearing, which shows up as a radar-like HUD, you don't need to X-ray anything. In first person mode, you can use the C-Stick to zoom in and out and your heat vision can be used to target far away items.

Visually, the game goes to great lengths to mimic the simplistic and even retro-themed style from the cartoon. Characters are built in cel-shaded models that vary in quality depending on how important they are to the story. Noncombatant NPCs and the army of Inter-bots are all pretty plain and after you've seen 20 or 30 of them, you'll be begging for something different to have to defeat or save. The locations, while large in area, tend to lack detail and there seems to be no effort made to give anything a level of depth. Visual and lighting effects are unimpressive. Probably the only thing that really stands out in the graphics department are the story sequences which do a wonderful job at replicating the cartoon.

In small doses, the sound effects and NPC comments are all right, but after too long, they get repetitive and annoying. The game's voice cast is pulled straight from the cartoon, including Tim Daly as Superman, Dana Delany as Lois, Lori Petty as Livewire, Malcolm McDowell as Metallo and Michael Tok as Kanto. Too bad the quality of the NPC voice acting pales to the story cast. Musically, the game is okay, but much like the sound effects, it tends to get boring before too long.

I have to wonder why a game surnamed "Shadow of Apokolips" that has Luthor and Darkseid teaming up against Superman has him fight neither of them. Instead, you go against Superman's second-tier enemies. Maybe if there had been more big enemies to face, this game would have lasted longer than a few hours. But, this in itself is merely a minor issue in comparison to the horrific collision detection that makes the game harder than it should be. To pick up anything, players have to hold down the A Button way too long. Also, switching into first person mode feels broken as you can't just tap the Z Button to make the switch.

For those looking for a Superman game worth playing, give this one a rent or buy when it's cheap. This game is vastly better than Superman 64, but it's still only mediocre in a genre of games that still struggle to be good games while recapturing their subject matter well.

- - Vane

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