Have you ever had dreams about being a super hero? Well what about your Xbox Live Avatar? Never fear, Ubisoft is here and has made your dreams come true with their latest game release Power-Up Heroes. By no means is this meant for hardcore gamers but I will say this that it is a lot of fun to play. Mix a little Mortal Kombat with Saturday morning cartoons and you have the perfect combination for a family friendly fighting game. Heck, I'll even go as far as saying there are quite a few similarities between this game and Mortal Kombat especially with one character in particular. More on that later.
Graphically the game mixes a blend of comic book style artwork along with that Saturday morning cartoon visual that will be appealing to kids. The use of your Xbox Live avatar in the game is done exceptionally well and even though at most points you only see the head of your avatar its incorporated well into the game. When at your home base you'll see your avatar as he or she appears on the Xbox Live dashboard. You can choose to wear a helmet if you like or use a stock character thatís unlocked from the start. Some of the effects are well animated and a lot of fun to watch.
I was really surprised to see how well Kinect recognized movements and any lag was really not all that apparent. The movements didn't have to be precise which makes it ideal for smaller kids to play and enjoy without getting to frustrated. Each movement usually required holding a certain position, performing a punch or a kick and making 2 swift movements to trigger a special power. Chaining combinations together was fairly easy as well and the game seemed to pick up on your every move. Hats off to Ubisoft for their attention to Kinect and the little things that make it work so well.
When it comes to sound do not expect much other than a quick interlude narration and then thats about it for voiceover work. The characters do not interact vocally and the only sounds you realy have in the game are the actual environmental sounds from the power moves and the fighting itself. Oh, and letís not forget the "Fight!" thatís starts up each round. Hmmm, where have I heard that before? The music is what you would expect from a super hero themed game.
So what is Power-Up heroes? Well, itís your basic one on one battle similar to fighting games of the past (Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, etc.). The only exception is this game has a family themed style to it that makes it a fun game for anyone of any age. There is not blood, fatalities or any other violent maneuvers that would hinder and good parent from allowing their kids to play it. You'll face off against several foes each with different powers and fighting styles and they will get increasingly harder as you play through the campaign. You can tell the difficulty level of an opponent by looking at the number by their picture which represents their level. I can't say the game ever gets difficult to the point of major frustration but you'll lose a few battles from time to time.
As you face opponents, you'll absorb their power and attain their suit for use in future battles. After winning a battle you'll also earn XP that will unlock new special abilities and power ups. Each battle allows you to take 2 suits which you can switch between during battle by raising your arm. Suits have advantages and disadvantages of course. Some give you more damage in attacks while others may increase your speed or combo ability. Itís your choice as to which suits you want to take into battle and at times your opponent can dictate that choice due to their own abilities and what you will have to combat against. There are a few surprises in the suits you can unlock as well and I had some fun with one in particular but I won't spoil the surprise.
There are a few different modes for you to play in the game. The campaign mode takes you through a series of fights facing off against several opponents. As I mentioned you'll slowly face higher level fighters as you progress but you'll have access to new suits and abilities as well to counter the higher levels. Once you have faced off against the normal fighters, you'll then face off against their X-style suits which basically the same opponents, only stronger. Honestly, the campaign is pretty short and I had hoped for a lot more. You'll run through this pretty quickly. The only thing that lengthens the game is the versus mode, online mode and actually the leveling up to get better upgrades and power ups.
I have to mention one thing that really caught my attention. There is a character/suit named Shadow in the game who in your basic ninja style character. He has a samurai sword attack which is really cool but the thing that really caught my eye was his third ability where he shoots a chain into the chest of his opponent and pulls him in close for an uppercut. Hmmmm. Can we say Scorpion from Mortal Kombat? This quickly became my favorite suit to use and I found myself yelling 'Get over here!' every time I pulled off the maneuver.
The special abilities take time to charge, but when you are taking damage you'll fill up a bar called Rage. When this bar is full you'll gain extra strength and all 3 of your abilities will be completely filled and ready to use. Your special abilities will also fill twice as fast allowing for possible comebacks in matches where you may seem down and out. You'll always have a fighting chance even when it seems the odds are stacked against you.
So as I mentioned, you have a versus mode where you can face off against a friend or you can choose to participate with up to 4 players in a tournament. You can also take your game online and face off against folks from around the world and this game actually is pretty cool in the fact that it uses Xbox Live Avatars so you truly feel like your super hero is your own. There is also an option in the game that allow you to go online to the marketplace and buy Super Suits if you so desire. Even though the suits were not available for download at the time of this review, I think we'll stick with the unlockables and upgrades that come free with the game with a little gaming time.
The only real downside to the game is that the campaign is so short and I would have liked to have seen a little more difficulty or advanced moves to keep the interest of older players. I definitely had a lot of fun playing this game for the short time it lasted. I can definitely see kids spending some time playing this one and young teens. While the gameplay may be extremely basic and straight forward it does have appeal. The sense that you can turn your avatar into a super hero is definitely a huge part of this game and its incorporated very well. Tie that in with the fact that the Kinect functionality and menu navigation is spot on and you have a complete game here. No its not going to be up for game of the year, but it is a nice break from the typical violence and brutality we see in so many games today. Release your Xbox Live Avatar's inner super hero today!