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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: n-Space
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Ever since the release of X-Men Legends, superhero-themed dungeon crawls have been all the rage. With these games, innovation doesn't seem to be all that important. Instead, a moderate dose of simplicity and a healthy emphasis on cooperative gameplay help these games do well critically and commercially. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was my first experience with a handheld superhero dungeon crawl, and I hope it was my last.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is a reasonably good-looking game, but there are some problems that are heavy enough to bring the whole game down a few notches. The environments and character models look really nice; all of this gives the impression that the game aspires to be like the console versions. However, the framerate chugs even when there's nothing of importance going on. This dampens any sense of satisfaction you might have gotten had the action been more fluid. Another huge issue is the camera. You have absolutely no control over the angles, and you'll get lost several times. You'll have to resort to the in-game map, which you must pause the game in order to access. It would have been nice if the touchscreen was used for the map, but that would probably have made the top screen far too busy.

MUA 2's sound design is unassuming throughout. To be fair, it's not bad. For the most part, activating powers will trigger an appropriate sound and the music is passable. However, none of this stuff is particularly befitting of the Marvel superheroes. If every part of the sound package was layered onto a generic action game, it would have worked just fine.


Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2's storyline follows the Marvel Universe's Superhero Civil War. This conflict takes the primary problem of the X-Men and expands it to affect all the Marvel Superheroes. The passage of the Superhero Registration Act not only splits the alliance cleanly in two, but also causes an open conflict to erupt. The Anti-Registration side is led by Captain America, while Iron Man is the face of the Pro-Registration side. You get to choose your side and fight for what you believe in. The DS version doesn't have as many heroes as the console versions do, but those who choose the handheld are rewarded with two exclusive characters: Sentry and She-Hulk.

MUA 2 is a dungeon crawler in which you play as (and with) your favorite Marvel heroes. You can rely on simple fisticuffs to battle your way past nearly everything, but why would anyone settle for that? Each character has customizable abilities and will level up whenever he/she has accrued enough experience. If you've already played the next-gen version, you know what to expect. If you have never played a game like this, try to imagine a Marvel-themed version of Gauntlet.

My favorable opinion of the next-gen release of MUA 2 has been noted and archived. Here's my main beef with the DS version: I don't really think that a clear-cut emulation is a very good idea for this kind of game on a handheld (much less on the DS). Perhaps I'm asking too much, but I'd have much preferred to see something more exclusive to the DS, gameplay-wise.


Some things never change; if you're playing by yourself, you'll have trouble getting past Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2's terrible artificial intelligence. There are times when you'll get lost, but your teammates are constantly plagued by severe pathfinding problems. If you want to take on hordes of baddies alone, that's all fine and good. However, if you want to fight the good fight as part of a team, you'll have to hold their hands (or literally take control of them) and make sure they don't get stuck behind doors. This kind of babysitting job is tedious and annoying... and worst of all, it doesn't pay.

MUA 2's combat takes a page from the console release; it's not very difficult at all. Finding your objectives and your oft-scattered team is another story. Whittling away at each enemy is as simple as it's ever been. You'll beat up some baddies with your melee attacks, hit others with your special powers, and unleash a Fusion attack every now and then. This kind of strategy can get you through the entire game, and you won't really have to think about much else.

Game Mechanics:

The much-touted Fusion mechanic has made its way into the DS version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, and even if they don't look as nice as they do on a big high-definition television screen, they are still very much a welcome escape from the occasional tedium. For those of you who don't know, teamwork is emphasized in MUA 2 to the point where different heroes are encouraged to combine their special abilities and unleash a devastating attack. Of course, these attacks can't be activated on a whim; like in the console versions, you'll have to defeat enough enemies in the (relatively) old fashioned way. There are some touchscreen functions, but they pale in comparison to the incredible stylus applications in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

The four-player multi-card play naturally eradicates the A.I. problem, but it doesn't solve much else; this is the same game no matter who you choose to play it with. However, it's undeniable that any multiplayer can make even the worst games at least a little bit better.

This version of MUA 2 has convinced me that it's time for a change in the franchise. The formula may be tried and true, but it's growing stale way too quickly. It's hard to fault the DS version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for not holding up alongside its console counterpart, but it's easy to acknowledge that there's too much wrong with this release to justify a purchase.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

Windows Order of War Nintendo DS Ant Nation

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