Thanks to Ravensoft’s excellent work on the X-Men Legends and Marvel Alliance games, we all know that the superhero genre can translate beautifully to the classic dungeon crawler-style game, and as such it comes as no great surprise that Snowblind Studio’s 2006 Justice League Heroes is an exceptionally enjoyable game.
Of course, dungeon crawlers rely on a solid, enjoyable story to make them really work well and draw in the player and thankfully Snowblind Studios have recognised this fact and come up with a highly entertaining and clever storyline that combines some of the biggest threats in the DC Universe and pits them against the powerful Justice League of America.
While the game certainly doesn’t feature as large a roster as Ravensoft’s Marvel offerings, Justice League certainly features enough playable characters to choose from, targeting all the DC heavy hitters like Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and complementing them with some nifty little unlockables like Aquaman, Huntress and Hawkgirl. In total there are 13 playable characters, six of which you have to unlock by collecting JL shields littered about throughout the various game levels.
Now if you are familiar with Snowblind’s previous titles, namely Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath and Champions: Return to Arms, then you’ll know exactly what to expect in terms of graphics and gameplay.
As per usual, the action is from a top-down, slightly isometric viewpoint with three levels of zoom and the game plays out on a variety of stages, each drawing on the particular point in the story for reference to layout and theme. There are two heroes assigned to each stage, with you as the player controlling the one and letting the A.I. Handle the other, though of course you can freely switch between the two at any point in time. However, the story does dictate that certain heroes handle certain missions and it is only occasionally where you’ll actually be given the option of selecting a hero for a particular stage.
Combat is the usual light and heavy attack button bashing affair, complemented by the single press jump and double press fly (if able) triangle button and the square pickup option. You are given a pretty powerful R1 block to use if necessary but more fun than that is the L1 modifier that allows you to deal out each character’s mapped special abilities, some which are pretty damn awesome to behold (once you’ve levelled up the skill of course!).
Each character levels up as in any other RPG dungeon crawler, though you do have the added task of locating, fusing and slotting in special ‘boosts’ that amplify your character’s attributes. The stages themselves are pretty easy to navigate, none are too big such that they become frustrating and in general aren’t particularly hard to get past. Every now and then you’ll have to deal with a boss character or tap into a little ‘mini-game’ to proceed, but for the most part the puzzles are pretty few and far between.
Graphically, Justice League Heroes is pretty par for the course when it comes to PS2 dungeon crawlers, though thankfully for a change Snowblind have decided to go to the extra effort of actually creating some nifty little in-game graphics cutscenes for us to enjoy, thereby helping to move the story forward and give you a little something to look forward to every now and then.
As per usual, the ambient sounds and backtrack are all customised to the current location and the whole game has quite an easy, enjoyable soundtrack to immerse one’s self in, with a capable selection of music compositions to enjoy. The voice acting on the other hand must be noted for not being particularly strong. A lot of the voice choices simply don’t feel as if they belong to a particular character and this is a bit of a pity because one comes into the game with voices already learnt from other DC universe resources like the myriad of animated series’ already available. Still, for the most part the voice acting is not overly forced and certainly doesn’t harm the game in any way.
In summary Justice League Heroes is a polished and very capable, action-packed dungeon crawler that will appeal heavily to fans of the DC comic book universe as well as to those gamers who enjoy a good hack/slash and level up adventure. The package as a whole is nicely polished, features a good story line that doesn’t try too hard to be overly clever and isn’t particularly hard or take too long to complete.
Enjoyable and certainly worth a look if you are a big comic book fanboy like I am.
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_League_Heroes