Thor: God of Thunder DS Review

Asgard looks pretty good.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 07/05/2011 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Great production values; a large, satisfying variety of attacks; a simple but effective plot
Poison Mushroom for...
Limited character growth elements; a fairly brisk main campaign

There are several schools of thought when it comes to movie tie-ins.  One is to assign one developer the task of developing a concept and then implementing it across multiple platforms.  A second take is to divide up the development duties across several platforms, but task each developer with following the unified design or script idea.  A third take is to divide up development duties and let each developer make their own way with regard to the content.

Thor: God of Thunder is the product of the third approach.  The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were handled by Liquid Entertainment (apparently with disastrous results), the Wii version was handled by Red Fly Studios (Mushroom Men) and the DS version was handled by WayForward Studios (A Boy and His Blob, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge).  Despite being a system whose glory days have passed, DS seems to have scored the strongest of the varied Thor installments, with a nifty action title with enough thrills to be worth a look.

Thor for DS is a 2D side-scrolling action brawler.  The title character moves through a level, bashing waves of various kinds of enemies with his trusty hammer Mjolnir.  There are several chapters, each with three acts, and in typical action fashion the third act of each chapter concludes with a boss exponentially larger than Thor himself.  The game’s plot diverges from the film, but this may be for the better, as the story stays firmly in the fantasy world and is more enjoyable for it.  Those familiar with Norse Mythology will appreciate both the characters and the level locations, and in a twist for an action game, the plot actually has a bit of depth to it as well.  Expect a couple of twists, some drama, a bit of humor, and characters that occasionally surprise, all of it enough to make this something more than just a mindless kill-fest.

The highlight of the game is the combat, which proves far more enjoyable than would be expected from a movie tie-in.  For one thing, both screens are put to use for combat.  Think of the game as widescreen turned vertical, with Thor able to leap from bottom screen to top screen and back down again.  Better still, action runs seamlessly between the two screens, with objects flying back and forth between the two screens.

Thor also has a surprising variety of moves at his disposal.  He has basic combos and charged combos, both of which come in three different flavors: hitting dead on, knocking up, and knocking down.  Thor can bring structures crashing down on top of enemies, throw debris at enemies, pick up and throw enemies at each other, throw Moljnir at enemies, leap into the air with enemies and send them flying, and come crashing down on enemies from above with a smash attack. Thor has a special attack meter that, when charged, can deliver one of three vicious mass destruction attacks using different elements: earth, wind, or, naturally, lightning.  Combat is mostly handled with the d-pad and buttons, while a quick tap on the screen will unleash the special attacks.

It’s a good thing there is variety to the combat, because Thor: God of Thunder has a lot of enemies.  Enemies seemingly crawl out of the woodwork in every single level, ranging from small goblin vermin to big hammer-wielding trolls.  Early on, combat is not terribly hard and for a skilled player death isn’t terribly frequent, but the action ramps up later in the game and player skill becomes more critical to survival.  The enemies have some decent attacks and defenses and often come in large numbers, but Thor’s array of attacks, combined with his invulnerability when executing a ground roll, makes him formidable.  Unlike some games, Thor can also continue to beat an enemy while down, and since enemies enjoy no period of invincibility after being incapacitated, Thor can pretty much beat them to extinction once he gets them down.  The real art to the game, then, is to corral a horde of enemies into one location and then smack the daylights out of them, especially later in the game when upright enemies can do more damage.

The generous combat system keeps the game surprisingly fresh, as players have an arsenal of moves to take care of the different kinds of enemies on the screen.  The game also occasionally flips the script with a few level areas or boss fights that are just different enough from the norm to keep the game interesting.  Moreover, those looking for a bigger challenge can also experience the game’s survival mode, which throws Thor against waves of enemies.

Since this is primarily an action title, character growth elements are minimal.  The lone upgrade system entails runes that can be picked up in the field and have various attribute buffs, such as increased damage in contextual situations or some enhanced ability.  Runes fall into three categories– head, body, hammer– and since Thor can only equip one of each category, some thought is involved.  One irritation about the runes is that they are unequipped when the game is shut off, so players will need to remember to re-equip them when firing up the game.

Vibrant graphics make WayForward’s licensed game stand out from the crowd.

Thor: God of Thunder produces a lot of pleasant surprises, but none may be more impressive than the game’s graphics.  This is one of the best-looking DS games on the system, both artistically and technically.  The cutscene images are all the work of veteran Marvel comics artists Mark Brooks and Sonia Oback, with each hero and villain possessing a vibrant, hand-drawn look to them.  The game’s 2D sprites retain the spirit of those images, with smooth, impressive-looking characters.  Thor looks great, his attacks look powerful, and the special effects are simply awesome; watching lightning electrocute everyone on-screen is a sight to behold.  Even with furious action sometimes raging on both screens, the game runs smoothly and beautifully.

The sound, while not quite of the pedigree of the graphics, still shoulders the burden well.  From the outset, the game’s MIDI soundtrack aims for an epic score that evokes memories of ActRaiser, with a sense that the world is at stake.  Not every level’s soundtrack is memorable, but they are all good and do a legitimate job of giving the game some atmosphere.  There is no voicework.

Thor: God of Thunder for DS won’t go down in the annals of history as one of its best games, and in a short span it will probably be all but forgotten.  Even so, WayForward clearly aimed to put out something more than the cheap cash-in and in the process produced probably the best of the Thor games and one of the better movie tie-ins in recent memory.  Those who like waves of enemies and good combat and want to dust off their DS won’t go wrong by taking a look at this one.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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