Games based on movies tend to come in the form of generic action romps, especially on the Game Boy Advance, so any departure from the norm is generally looked upon as a good thing. When fans of the man of steel go looking for a video game with their hero in it, they expect to find a game that lets them fly over Metropolis, pummel bad guys, and put the hero's superpowers to use in ways that are visually pleasing. They don't expect a puzzle game where Superman's powers are used as cheats to help solve logic problems. For that reason alone, most people are going to take a pass on this game. The few that don't will discover a passable puzzler that offers a decent selection of Sudoku-style puzzles, which also just so happens to bear the Superman Returns logo and feature a few still images taken from the recent movie.
In all, there are about 90 different puzzles to solve, spread out over 20 chapters. The rules sometimes vary, but they're all very similar to sudoku. In a nutshell, you have to place symbols in such a way that you complete rows or entire boards without placing two of the same symbol into the same row or column. Solving each puzzle is basically a process of elimination, but that process becomes more time consuming as later puzzles become larger and larger. Ultimately, time is the main villain that you have to worry about. You only have a limited amount of time to complete all of the puzzles in each chapter. If you run out of time, you have to start the chapter from the beginning. The time limits are pretty tight, so you'll probably have to attempt each chapter multiple times before you're able to see patterns and make moves at the quick pace that's necessary to solve the puzzles in the allocated time. Superman's powers are available to help somewhat, in that you can use them on a limited basis to ask for hints, generate new pieces, or stop the timer for a few seconds.
While solving puzzles is generally what the game is about, each chapter also includes a brief shoot-'em-up stage along the lines of Gradius or R-Type. In these simple side-scrolling stages, you have to shoot villains with Superman's heat vision and freeze breath and then collect the crystals they leave behind. They're definitely not as intricate, challenging, or visually intense as what you'd find in a full-fledged shooter, but these stages do serve to give your brain a break every few puzzles or so. Of course, they also serve as a needling reminder that this isn't an action game.
As bizarre as it is to play a Superman-themed puzzle game, the concept otherwise seems to work. The puzzles are clever, and working through them is definitely a good way to keep your mind sharp. The graphics and audio are bare bones, but they get the job done. Pieces are colorful and sharp, while the music and sound effects consist of some symphonic snippets taken from the movie score and an assortment of generic beeps and tones. Your reward for completing a chapter is the ability to look at a still image featuring a scene from the movie. That's not much of a bonus, but it's more than some puzzle games offer.
If you're looking for an action game based on Superman Returns, you're probably not going to want to pick this one up--though, to be fair, you're definitely not going to want to pick up any other version of Superman Returns either. Nevertheless, if you enjoy puzzles or are trying to get a youngster to play something that's mentally challenging, you might want to check out Superman Returns: Fortress of Solitude.