Games that are based on comic books are rarely notable beyond the licenses they carry. Unfortunately, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance for the Game Boy Advance isn't going to do anything to change that perception. This Final Fight wannabe may let you take control of your favorite Marvel superhero, but it is so sloppy and derivative that it's impossible to enjoy.
The long and the short of it is that this game is just a generic isometric beat-'em-up, with some Marvel comics characters pasted into it. You are asked to endure 12 short, visually bland levels that are filled with the same half-dozen carbon-copied enemies. You have to punch and kick your way past these enemies countless times per level and then outlast the boss waiting at the end of each level. Apart from collecting a key here and there, there's nothing more to it. Combat is all about mindlessly mashing the attack buttons, and the attacks are little better than badly animated renditions of stereotypical uppercuts and slashes. You have your pick of 10 different Marvel characters and get to swap use of three of them at each level, but the characters all function in the same way. On top of all that, the programming is sloppy because the hits don't always register and the controls frequently ignore input.
The overall presentation isn't any better. Visually, the backgrounds range from ugly to merely tolerable. The characters move in stops and starts, and it's nearly impossible to keep track of what's going on because the animation is so jerky. The six or so generic enemies in the game look like the orcs and trolls from The Lord of the Rings. At least the bosses are from the Marvel universe. However, they're mostly the B-list villains like Fin Fang Foom and Mandarin. As for the remainder of the presentation, it's the very definition of "lazy." The story scenes are made up entirely of character sprites and text boxes. And the accompanying audio consists of quiet incidental music along with some scratchy punches and yells.
Thankfully, the game is mercifully short. All 12 levels can be completed in about an hour. Beyond that, you can replay the levels over and over to power up your characters. Or you can waste a few minutes, toying around with the time attack, boss rush, and scavenger bonus games located at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.
If there is anything positive that can be said about the game, it's that the selection of playable characters is excellent. Blade, Captain America, Deadpool, Elektra, Iceman, Spider-Man, Thor, and Wolverine are available from the start. And the Thing and Ms. Marvel become available later on in the game. Each level also provides a striker character, such as Ghost Rider and Iron Man, which can be summoned periodically to attack all enemies onscreen.
It's a shame that the developers wasted such a fan-friendly character roster on this horrible game. There are so many other beat-'em-ups available for the GBA that it's impossible to fathom why anyone, regardless of his or her love for the Marvel universe, would want to waste even 30 seconds playing Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. It's derivative, it's uninteresting, and it's sloppy. Worse yet, it shows no appreciation for the characters it showcases.