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Iron Man (DS) artwork

Iron Man (DS) review

"SEGA built this game in a cave...with a box of scraps..."

SEGA built this game in a cave...with a box of scraps...

Not exactly a positive thing this time. You probably know the deal with movie-licensed games: vomit out a game around the time a summer blockbuster comes out, slap on a cheeseball tagline like 'go BEYOND the movie', wait for profits to roll in. Savvy gamers long ago got wise to this malarkey, but clearly there are still many who have not.

However, there do exist decent movie-games. Iron Man is…sometimes one of these. While not a fantastic or even above-average game by any means, Iron Man manages to be completely mediocre in virtually every regard. For a movie-game, this is practically a godsend.

The first level should feel very familiar to the game’s target audience. Enjoy this familiar feeling, because it’s gonna go out the window real soon. Tony Stark has been captured by Bad Middle-Easterners, but with the help of Token Good Middle-Easterner--after all, we can’t have audiences thinking they’re all Jihaders--he builds a prototype Iron Man suit that looks more like a refrigerator and makes his daring escape. Only this time, you’re in control!

On that clever segue, let’s talk about those controls, shall we? Ho-ho! Iron Man makes heavy use of the stylus, first off, so get ready to support the DS with your off-hand constantly. I, personally, am not a huge fan of the stylus. Like the Wiimote, I feel it to be an awkward gimmick that works well for only a select few kinds of game, but is shoved into nearly every one so they can boast some manner of touch screen feature to be New and Hip. Iron Man’s use of the stylus is implemented okay, the problem is it’s completely unnecessary, so there should have at least been an option for normal controls. Basically, press the stylus to the touch screen, and Iron Man will fire his incredibly weak flamethrower---seriously, he’d have trouble warming a TV dinner with it--in whatever direction you’ve touched relative to the center of it. When you suit up in the proper Mk.II suit--using the old one to store Tony’s plentiful stock of booze--for the rest of the game, this works the same with his repulsor lasers. Along with this, the touch screen now controls the use of auto-lock missiles, his chest cannon, and comm. system (though you only need it to receive occasional messages that could have popped up as automatically as the other half of them do anyway).

I bet you’re asking, is there anything the face and shoulder buttons do? Why, you betcha, but they handle two functions total. The shoulder buttons give you your speed boost during flying levels (and do jack all during ground ones), and the face buttons activate your Fridge Punch or EMP, depending on suit. That’s right, every single face button does the exact same thing. It’s a huge waste of controls; they could have easily mapped the four weapons to…the four face buttons! Holy cow; what a wacky idea! One of the shoulder buttons could have served as a directional lock so the strafing runs I found myself so reliant on to survive would still be possible. Basically, every single thing the touch screen is used for could easily have been abolished, save for the objective-markers. So leave those, and add a map too, which would have been useful in the large levels.

Speaking of levels (another sly transition, if I do say so myself), once you complete the first, you’re off on a whirlwind series of side adventures. Going BEYOND the movie! Though considering until the last level you don’t visit any locations from the actual movie, it’s more like you’re going around it instead of beyond, but hey. The half-dozen missions sandwiched between the beginning and end essentially equates to Pepper Potts saying ‘there’s Stark weapons at this desert/mansion/airship/etc’ and Stark replying ‘well I’m gonna blow them up!’ These are mostly flying stages that pit you against tanks, attack choppers, surface-to-air missile platforms, and so on, but occasionally you’ll head indoors to stomp around and fight regular grunts in the never-ending search for shield generators (why don’t the bad guys ever place these things behind the shields?). The indoors stages are a bit bizarre, because Iron Man’s regularly quick strafing fire becomes pathetically sluggish; he gingerly steps about on eggshells while shooting as if sneaking up on a wascally wabbit. And while you’d expect to cut through troopers like, well, Iron Man through troopers, they’re able to kick your ass just as easily as a tank. Maybe more so given your horrid mobility. They take about as many shots to kill as a tank, too--say what you want about the villains in this game, but they don’t skimp on the armor budget. It’s even worse when you’re launching your own missiles into these guys and they shrug off three or four because you didn’t upgrade them enough. Even at max power your ordinance can’t down a chump grunt without multiple shots. Won’t even cause them to flinch; they just register damage and keep firing. What’s in these things? Tapioca?

Yep, you also upgrade your suit between levels. For every enemy or destroyable structure you take down, you’re awarded XP (or RP as the game calls it; don’t get confused, now!) to apply towards seven different areas of the Mk.II Iron Man suit (Iron Fridge gets screwed). Problem is, upgrading certain things is nearly worthless, and if you don’t power up the right things at the right times, it can make levels nearly impossible to beat on the higher difficulties. Well, no problem, you say? I can just go back on my save and adjust my upgrades if they don’t work out for me, you say? Nope. The game forces you to save after you pick your upgrades, and you can’t ever undo them. You can’t save to multiple files, either, even though there are three slots for saves; each slot is completely independent of the others, making them useless unless you’ve got two buddies just dying to play DS Iron Man at the same time you are.

The auto-save kicks in mid-level too, at the scattered checkpoints throughout. Some levels, usually the longest and most annoying ones, have but a single checkpoint in them, right before the boss. Nothing’s more annoying than playing through a half-hour long level only to eat it right before you know you’re about to hit the checkpoint. I’m certainly no advocate of the modern trend of giving you a checkpoint every five steps, but this game really goes the other route. At these checkpoints they’re at least nice enough to recharge your health, but your missile count is also reset to 24, no matter if you had 9 or 99. This can be frustrating if you thought about saving up missiles for a tough section or boss. Ain’t happenin’.

Iron Man doesn’t sport many bosses, but the ones that are there had me scratching my head as to why anyone gives a crap about Stark technology if they’re able to build a Metal Gear-esque battle carrier, sky fortress, or Goldeneye laser satellite. Especially when Stark technology has its tapioca-filled missiles and EMPs that can paralyze a helicopter while keeping it airborne.

Sights and sounds are a mixed bag; while the levels themselves feature fully-voiced dialogue (sound-alikes for the most part, though), the pre-mission briefings that feature grainy, reused movie stills (as in, you’ll see the same picture of Tony thinking at his workshop again…and again…and again) do not. Why? Is it that hard to find a sound-alike for Gwyneth Paltrow?

Unfortunately, once you’ve beaten the game, there’s really not much reason to play it again. Though, truth be told, there’s not much reason to play it the first time. You can replay levels, but the only point in doing so is to get more points to power-up for the game’s sole unlockable--a kind of survival mode you won't even care about. So instead of buying this game, I’d suggest you get your brain replaced with one of those fancy arc reactors. Tony Stark approves!


turducken's avatar
Community review by turducken (June 04, 2011)

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SamildanachEmrys posted June 05, 2011:

Good review, I thought. Nice blend of factual game analysis and humour, and a well-conveyed depiction of the experience of playing this game.

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