The lives of superheroes are supposed to be the most exciting imaginable. Imbued with the power of flight, tank-tossing strength, or just an obscene amount of patriotism, these lifesaving do-gooders get their jollies from foiling the plans of evil masterminds, concocting elaborate disguises, or just messing around with their many extraordinary abilities. There is no such fun to be had in Marvel Super Hero Squad. Although you do get to take control of a wide variety of colorfully clothed saviors, ranging from the obscure bird-lover Falcon to the aptly named Iron Man, your exploits fall far short of heroic. You spend so much time punching out nondescript robots in forgettable corridors that your actions lose all meaning. Not that you can even see your actions a lot of the time. The camera pans and swoops around the battlefield with no regard to your needs, making it hard to focus on the dull button-mashing combat for long enough to grow tired of it. This uninspired superhero game is not worth your time.
Amid the broken camera and shallow combat, the story actually manages to provide some entertainment. Molded in the vein of a Saturday morning cartoon, the plot reduces these heroes to their most basic personality traits, making them so petty and immature that they are actually pretty funny. Dr. Doom has a mini hissy fit whenever his plans go even slightly awry; Odin angrily drags Thor and his impish brother Loki by their ears when he catches them fighting; and Silver Surfer sounds like the fifth member of the Ninja Turtles, constantly referring to his companions as "bro" like he's a stereotypical Californian surfer. The less-than-reverent portrayal of these beloved icons may ruffle a few feathers, but it's the only part of the game that projects a unique personality. It's hard not to crack a smile when Moduk goes through the trouble of capturing Wolverine in a cage made of adamantium but puts a flimsy wooden roof on it. The story in Marvel Super Hero Squad is so bad that it's good, providing some genuinely funny jokes if you don't take things too seriously.
Sadly, once the goofy cutscenes stop rolling and you're stuck actually playing the adventure, things quickly fall apart. This is a boring game, with combat that is so simple and repetitive you may as well be given a win button so you can quickly move to the next scene of the heroic soap opera. You punch with the A button, perform a long distance attack with the B button, string together combos by mashing these buttons, and end with a motion-controlled flourish. It's easy enough to dispatch the waves of attackers, but it's not even remotely fun. You can mash your way to victory without having to exert any thought or mix up your tactics in the slightest. You are accompanied by another superhero at all times, either AI or human controlled, but that doesn't make things any more interesting. The camera is so poorly designed that it is almost impossible to keep the action onscreen when a second player joins, making it all too easy for one player to fall off a cliff or get beaten to a pulp by a robot just offscreen.
The camera problems carry over in the Battle mode, a free-for-all fight against up to three human- or computer-controlled opponents. This plays very similarly to a 3D version of Super Smash Bros., except it removes any semblance of fun. Your attacks are slightly more fleshed out than in the Adventure mode, giving you a flashy finishing move in addition to your repertoire of punches and more punches. But this move is a pain to pull off, requiring you to hit down on the D pad while you swing your arm, so your tactic is the same mash-a-thon from the mundane Adventure mode. For some reason, the camera swoops and pans with reckless abandon, constantly zooming around the arena but rarely giving you a decent view of all four competitors. This mode is also extremely imbalanced. It's a pain to hit an airborne character if you can’t fly, and characters with projectile attacks can perpetually pepper opponents from far away without fear of retaliation.
If you do get sucked into the goofy story and quirky characters--somehow tolerating the sterile gameplay--there are worthwhile unlockables to strive for. There are six heroes and seven villains initially, and you can earn many more characters to team up with during the course of the adventure. Marvel staples, such as Wolverine and The Thing, will appease players whose Marvel knowledge begins and ends with blockbuster movies, but there are less obvious inclusions as well, such as Ms. Marvel and Mole Man. Unfortunately, a lot of their personality is wasted because of how inadequate everything looks. The characters are small and poorly defined, making it easy to lose track of who is fighting whom during the heat of battle. When Hulk collides with Abomination, it just looks like two green blobs of putty mashed together.
Marvel Super Hero Squad never comes close to capturing the thrill of superpowered crime fighting. As you walk down nondescript corridors and through unimaginative evil lairs, repeatedly slamming on the punch button as wave after wave of faceless robots attack you, you'll wonder how such an exciting concept could have been squandered so spectacularly. The ridiculous story isn't nearly entertaining enough to compensate for the monotonous combat, and the simple Battle mode is too imbalanced to provide a good outlet for superpowered rage. Stay far away from this superhero snore fest.