It's no secret that video games based on movies get a bad rap. However, Sega is looking to lift some of this negative stigma with its series of Thor: God of Thunder video games. Instead of just retreading the events of the upcoming movie, these games have been given the liberty to tell their own tale outside of the movie's narrative. Marvel Comics writer Matt Fraction, known for his work on Uncanny X-Men and numerous Thor comics, has been assisting as a story consultant in crafting a tale specific for these games. It will chronicle Thor's journey across the numerous worlds of Norse mythology to battle enemies lifted straight from the comics, including Ymir, Surtur, and Ulik.
The first version of the game I checked out was on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which was a third-person action game. The areas I saw focused primarily on combat, which was very straightforward and built around accessibility. Fighting was a mixture of normal hits with Thor's legendary hammer, Mjolnir, interspersed with the elemental powers, which acted as finishing moves. The direction pad could be used to switch between Thor's three elemental powers: wind, lighting, and thunder. If an enemy got out of range, Thor could attack from a distance by locking on to and strafing around an enemy while lobbing his hammer into its face. Check out the video below to see the Odin son in action.
The Wii version took a similar approach with the same third-person action, but it had a different visual style. It looked more like the comics, unlike the previous game, which more resembled the movie, with its bright, colorful palette and numerous unlocked outfits for the title character taken from his numerous incarnations. I started out in a boss fight against the flame giant Surtur and his minions. This encounter introduced me to the game's combat, which was very reminiscent of the previous version's combat. However, because this was on the Wii, combo finishers were executed using specific motions with the Wii Remote rather than mere button press. Using the direction pad and gesturing with the Wii Remote, I could also access Thor's numerous elemental powers. One summoned a typhoon to knock enemies around; another called upon a lighting storm to stun targets; the third supercharged Thor's hammer for additional damage.
After shattering Surtur's giant, flaming sword, I wailed on his weak spot by throwing the supercharged Mjolnir at it repeatedly until he finally submitted. The second area I played in showed off a mechanic unique to this version: flight. Thor took to the skies in a simple rail shooter sequence where I used the Wii Remote to point and shoot lighting wherever I pleased (which was everywhere). I could also hold down the fire button and paint the cursor across multiple targets to strike them all at once, a technique that was useful for catching smaller enemies.
The last version I saw was on the Nintendo DS, and it turned out to be my favorite. Developed by WayForward Technologies (Contra 4), this version of the game featured yet another unique art design. This time, it was in the form of some highly detailed and stylish sprite designs. The game itself was a 2D side-scrolling brawler that utilized both screens on which to smack foes around. The first area I saw took me through the game's tutorial, which was set amid a massive invasion of Asgard by trolls (described as the rats, kobolds, or bandits of the Thor universe). As I got reacquainted with the god of thunder for the third time that day, I was relieved to see that the game had steered away from including gimmicky touch-screen controls. After routing the fiends, I skipped ahead and faced off against the frost giant Ymir. This was the game's first, and certainly not last, dual-screen boss encounter. Down on the bottom screen, I had to fight off Ymir's frozen fiends while dodging a barrage of icy boulders before leaping up to the top screen onto the giant's shoulders and introducing his face to the backside of my hammer.
Every version of the game had something different to bring to the experience, and it was refreshing to see developers given more creative liberty in how they adapt these licensed games. You can find the whole set just in time for the cinematic release this May.