At Wondercon this weekend, I got a chance to play the video game tie-ins for DC’s summer movie offering, Green Lantern. As a die-hard Marvel fanboy, I wasn’t initially too thrilled with this assignment, but after spending some time with Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters on the 3DS, I think Griptonite Games has created a pretty cool game.
Also, I should note that these screenshots don’t look remotely like the gameplay itself, which is a pity.
Green Lantern: Rise of The Manhunters (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS [Previewed])
I’m not extremely well-versed in the goings-on of the DC Universe, but I’ve got the gist of The Green Lantern. The particular Green Lantern being played by Ryan Reynolds in the film is named Hal Jordan. Hal’s just your average jet fighter pilot ace who found a crashed spaceship, was given some magic jewelry by a dying alien, and became a member of an intergalactic police force of guys in green onesies and Kato masks.
In Rise of The Manhunters, the titular Manhunters are a race of androids originally created to police the galaxy before the Lanterns were around. Unfortunately, they soon became preoccupied with dishing out punishment instead of upholding truth and justice, and it’s up to the Green Lanterns to kill the mean robots. That seems to be the general premise of the game.
Goofy Silver Age plotlines aside, The Green Lantern does have a pretty sweet power: he can use his ring to form anything he needs, just by thinking it. Machine guns, swords, giant fists, whatever. Anything that’s necessary to fight intergalactic crime, or makes for an interesting plot device. Deus ex machina at its finest.
Using such an open-ended superpower as a comic book story-gimmick is easy, but turning it into a game mechanic is another issue altogether. In Rise of The Manhunters, Griptonite managed to keep things pretty simple without making them boring.
After playing the game for about a minute, I said “This kinda feels like Super Metroid.” One of the PR guys present said, “Yes, ‘Metroidvania’ is definitely the approach we took here,” referring to that very specific flavor of action platforming gameplay that involves a bit of exploration as well.
As far as the action goes, Hal’s got a few attacks at his disposal. First, there’s his energy attack, where he shoots green crap from his ring. He’s also got a melee attack where he punches guys in the face. Both of these attacks can be charged up by momentarily holding down and then releasing the corresponding button. The way Hal uses these charged up attacks changes at random. For instance, one charged melee attack had him swinging around a pair of glowing green maces, and the next had him conjure up some gigantic green fists for enemy-punching.
In addition to the melee and energy attacks, Hal can also do a ground-pound. This is pretty straightforward, and is performed by jumping into the air, using the ring to create some sort of heavy object, and then dropping on enemies. Heavy objects that I saw included a mid-size sedan and a giant anchor, which was a nice cartoony addition to what’s otherwise a semi-realistic game.
Some other powers include flight, which is achieved by tapping the jump button twice. The way this handles on the 3DS felt right, and not clumsy or tacked on. Hal can also scan enemies to figure out their weaknesses; I fought a bunch of obnoxious vampire robots who siphoned my lantern-energy to make shields around themselves. The proper way to beat them was by using energy attacks to break their shields, and then melee attacks to finish them off.
The right trigger activates a green shield around Hal, which, of course, deflects attacks from enemies, but can also be used to open certain doors. This feels very similar to accessing doors in Super Metroid, especially when I discovered a map room. Messing with the computer in this room updated the objectives on the map overlay that could be brought up by tapping a small icon on the 3DS’ lower screen.
As someone who grew up looking at a single screen, I feel terribly old when I forget to look at the bottom screen of the DS/DSi/3DS. There’s something about it that just isn’t intuitive for me, a problem the younger generations of video game wunderkind probably don’t have. The folks at Griptonite seemed to understand my plight, and said that they made the game mostly focused on the top screen, with a few exceptions.
On the bottom screen, there are a bunch of special attacks Hal can use, the kind that kill a bunch of dudes at once. Hal can also call for backup from one of the other Green Lanterns like Kilowog, Sinestro, or Tomar-Re, who will fly on screen and beat up enemies for you.
The 3D in the game isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s also not too headache-inducing. From what I gather, Rise of the Manhunters was already being developed when the 3DS got unveiled, so Griptonite had to go back and look at what could be 3D-ified best. The end result is a good sense of visual depth, but not a game that looks quite like it’s popping out of the screen.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not excited for the Green Lantern movie, and I wasn’t excited for Rise of The Manhunters. After playing it, though, I’m pleased. Kid-oriented handheld movie tie-ins based on summer blockbusters are typically met with eye-rolling and sarcasm, but Griptonite handled things pretty well.