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Thor: God of Thunder (Wii)
Game Reviews

Thor: God of Thunder (Wii)

While not a great game, the Wii version of the blockbuster movie is a vastly better playing and performing experience than its HD cousins.

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The start of the summer movie blockbuster season usually signals the arrival of their requisite videogame counterparts, a genre that Sega has been more than happy to keep filled for some time now. Their latest is Thor: God of Thunder, a multi-platform release for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and DS consoles, and loosely-based on Paramount Pictures’ live-action movie of the same name.

Prior knowledge of the Thor universe isn’t required, neither is having seen the movie that it’s based on – they’re not connected in the slightest, except for the vague likeness and voice talents of stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. The console versions present an original story that sees the Frost Giants of Jotunheim attacking Asgard to take back an ancient treasure, which results in the death of Thor’s beloved friend Lady Sif. Ever the schemer, Loki persuades his brother Thor to seek his revenge by traversing across the Nine Worlds to administer his own unique brand of god-like justice – from the butt of his mighty hammer Mjölnir.

Apart from following relatively the same storyline and sharing some gameplay elements, the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 versions (hereafter referred to as the HD versions) and the Wii version are radically different beasts. Developed by Red Fly Studios, who demonstrated their prowess with Nintendo’s home console with the arguably superior version of Ghostbusters, Thor: God of Thunder on the Wii is the better of the two, thanks to its superior gameplay system, creative art design, and what seems to be an all-around respect for those who might actually want to play the game. There’s even more variety here, as Wii users actually get to visit Midgard (Earth) for a fiery police station battle and take to the skies in some fun aerial combat that owes a lot to Treasure’s Sin & Punishment series. It’s still not a great game, as shaky visuals and repetitive battles only slightly elevate it above the realm of mediocrity.

As with Red Fly’s Wii version of Ghostbusters, their version of Thor mercifully eschews the Unreal Engine-powered visuals of its HD counterpart in favor of a simpler, stylized presentation that’s far more faithful to the character’s comicbook origins than its blockbuster movie source. It may not have the shiny, photo-realistic look of the HD versions, but what it lacks in shine is more than made up for in personality and creative design, especially in Thor’s various interactions with the game’s gigantic bosses. Facial animations and models are just better and more expressive here, and practically every major fight is filtered through cinematic encounters that are as much fun to watch as they are to play, if not more so. Most of the story is told through semi-animated comic panels that are peppered with lighting effects and voice-overs, most of which sound like they dropped in from your favorite Saturday morning cartoon.

Unfortunately, the frame-rate doesn’t always keep up, and you’ll often miss targets and critical hits because it goes to hell more often than it should. Likewise, you’ll also come across various glitches and game-halting freezes, which means having to reply through some areas. Still, even with its many faults, the scaled-back approach employed on the Wii is still vastly superior to the jittery, jagged mess of the HD versions.

But what really elevates the Wii version of Thor above its HD counterparts is an intelligent combo system that borrows liberally from God of War playbook, yet is intuitively streamlined just enough to let anyone pick up the Wii Remote/Nunchuk and truly feel like a powerful God of Thunder. The fixed camera keeps the focus where it belongs – on the action – while your attacks will auto-direct to the next closest enemy that’s cruising for a bruising. Hitting the A-button unleashes most of his basic attacks, while many of his most powerful combos + magic attacks are mapped to motions, most which have the miraculous effect of making you actually appreciate waggling.

Unleashing massive combos on enemies builds your combo meter, which in turn helps unlock even more devastating and powerful attacks, and while this essentially amounts to a marathon of button-mashing, it still manages to be a lot of fun. You’ll also pick up various Runes and golden tokens that are scattered throughout the levels to further upgrade your skills, and much like the combo system using them has been streamlined to make using them less a chore and more enticing. I’d be lying if I said that racing towards throngs of enemies while swinging the Wiimote wasn’t a blast, as I was itching to try out some of the new moves I’d just unlocked. Even a few tired quick time event (QTE) battles can’t bring done what’s (mostly) satisfying mashing.

Thor: God of Thunder for the Wii may not be a great game, but compared to the horrible HD versions on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, its practically a masterpiece. As with their version of Ghostbusters, Red Fly Studios’ version plays to the strengths of the platform, opting for more cartoon-like visuals and streamlined combo system that actually makes waggling your Wiimote + Nunchuk fun. Even better, there’s more variety here as well, with unique flying levels and even a trip to the world of Midgard (Earth) missing in other versions. None of this helps make the tired level design and lackluster adventure more exciting, but if you simply have to show your support for one of Marvel’s Avengers on a home console, let it be this one, as a better developer has definitely made this the better game.

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About the Author: Trent McGee