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Superman Returns - Fortress of Solitude - Game Boy Advance (2006)

by Bobinator - September 10, 2014

European Cover

Superman, given his powers and his general character, has only so many roles he can really fill, when it comes to video games. Putting him in something like a beat-em-up or a fighting game where the player is given free reign to use his powers makes sense. Making something good out of anything beyond that is something the gaming industry hasn't really figured out, since some games, like Superman 64, tend to transcend the idea of "genre" entirely. However, we can probably generally agree that a puzzle game is probably the worst place to put Superman. Especially when it's a puzzle game that's basically Sudoku. And that's what EA went ahead and did.

In this game, instead of doing the things you usually expect Superman to do, like fight villains or save Metropolis, he instead spends his time sitting around playing tile puzzles. There's a very flimsy justification that it's a test from Jor-El, and that solving these puzzles will help Superman learn about his history, but this raises a lot more questions. Why does Superman have to play Kryptonian logic puzzles to find this out? Why are Kryptonian logic puzzles so closely to a game mostly played by grandmothers? Why are Superman's rogue's gallery not taking this moment Superman's sitting around playing Sudoku to loot Metropolis? (Oh, if you're wondering: Batman's logic puzzle of choice, going by some of the minigames in some of his games, is either Mastermind or Towers of Hanoi.) Most of the game takes place across two types of logic puzzles, each of which involve crystals of different shapes and colors. "Kyrptonex" is about placing crystals on the board so that only ones of the same color or shape are touching. "Crystallization" has you placing crystals around the board so that none of the same shape or color are on the same row or column. If you're into logic puzzles like Sudoku, you might actually have a pretty fun time with this. The puzzle engine is competent, at least, even if it's not particularly thrilling.

Your goal, more than anything, is to reduce your time on each puzzle as low as it'll go, as each set of puzzles have to be cleared under a certain time limit to unlock the next chapter. To help you do this, you have a few "superpowers" at your disposal, each of which will help you with the puzzle in some way. The most abusable of these would have to be super speed, which lets you stop the clock for a few seconds, thus letting you cheat your way to better times. Using powers uses up energy, however, which recharges slowly over time. It does bring the image of Superman getting so frustrated at a game of Sudoku he just gets angry and fires his heat vision all over it is great, however.

Oh, and there's a crappy shooter section after every few puzzles. Every so often, Superman will actually get off of his ass and actually go fight a supervillian, putting him outside the fortress for a bit. In these sections, enemies fly towards you, and you either shoot them with your heat vision or frost breath, depending on if they're red or blue. Don't expect much of a leap in excitement levels here, since you're dealing with wave after wave of identical enemies that never bother to fire back. While these are a lot closer to the sorts of things you usually expect Superman to do, they're not really difficult at all, since you can basically spam one of your two attacks to kill any enemy that approaches on screen. These stages don't even end with a boss fight, meaning they're total non sequiturs in your superheroic logic puzzle.

One has to wonder just how much the demographic of Sudukou fans, GBA owners, and fans of Superman crossed over. It's not that the game itself is awful, especially if you like Sudoku. But putting Superman, of all characters, into the equation not only makes no sense. If you're a Superman fan, you're going to be expecting literally anything more exciting. If you're a Sudoku fan, you probably don't want to play a terrible shooter. But hey, it's somehow better than the actual movie it's based on.

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Developer:

  • Santa Cruz Games / EA Tiburon

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Superman Returns

Superman Returns

Superman Returns


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