Why the Wii version of Thor: God of Thunder is going to be the best

When it comes to licensed games, the Wii version sometimes feels like the obligatory release; the quickie cash-in made to sate less discriminating players, if you will. But after playing both the Xbox 360/PS3 and Wii versions of Thor: God of Thunder at the C2E2 pop culture convention in Chicago over the weekend, we’re easily more impressed by the Wii iteration. Rather than limply aping God of War like the 360/PS3 versions, it sports a more comic-oriented aesthetic, straightforward beat-em-up action, and flying sequences that take a nod from shooters like Panzer Dragoon.

It’s not a total surprise, though, considering the developer behind the project. Red Fly Studio previously helmed the sharp Wii version of Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the best-reviewed Wii release of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, and original platformer Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars, all of which demonstrated an ability to make core action games work (and work pretty well) within the constraints of the Wii. We tried three different scenarios to get a feel for the variety of action in Thor, and while it’s hard to tell whether it will pan out to be a better-than-usual movie tie-in, what we played was pretty solid across the board.

Unlike the other console versions, the Wii release of Thor: God of Thunder includes action set on Earth, and the first stage we played found Thor battling enemy creatures in a common city setting. God of Thunder attempts to find the balance between combat simplicity and combo depth, and the control scheme uses a mixture of button and motion inputs for various attacks. Tapping the A button triggers a standard hammer attack, while left and right Wii Remote movements unleash stronger assaults, and up and down swipes can knock a foe in the air or slam him back to the ground, respectively.

Your weather-oriented God powers can come in handy during combat – such as blowing the fire shield off an enemy – and like your melee attacks, they’re enhanced by the combo system. As you chain together dozens of hits, all of your offensive capabilities become much more powerful; for example, a standard lightning attack can turn into a truly electrifying (pun certainly intended), screen-filling affair once you’ve chained together 50 hits. And in addition to skill upgrades, you can also equip various Runes that let can make Thor a better melee fighter or enhance his God powers, based on how you choose to personalize the experience.

Later, we tried a battle against a lava-bound boss, who swipes his fiery sword onto the screen and must be weakened by throws of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, by holding a button and lightly shaking either the Wii Remote or Nunchuk. Once dazed, you can topple him through a quick-time sequence in which you’ll move the Wii Remote as indicated on the screen – not terribly exciting, but thankfully unlikely to trigger any bouts of extreme frustration. And finally, we played a quick flying sequence, in which Thor flies forward and zaps foes with single lightning bolts or chained-together attacks. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward riff on Rez and other shooters of its ilk, but should provide some light variety amidst the melee missions.

It’s always surprising when the Wii version of a multiplatform game rises above the others – especially when it’s licensed fare – but the Wii release of Thor: God of Thunder seems likely to be the standout version come May. Whether it will be a legitimately worthwhile action entry for the system remains unclear based on our brief, fragmented demo, but the comic-like aesthetic and solid, apparently varied action hold promise for fans of the Norse hero.

Mar 22, 2011

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