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Xbox Review: Justice League Heroes

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Being the die-hard comic book fan that I am, of course I’d heard about the new Justice League Heroes Xbox game — and could not wait to play. As a child, I grew up watching Super-Friends and always wanted to be a member of the Justice League of America.

While that dream is impossible, Justice League Heroes brings you the next best thing: being able to virtually fight evil as the members of the Justice League.

The second I dove into the game, I was reminded of X-Men: Legends — another fighting game where you can play as your favorite mutants, which came out a couple of years ago.

In Justice League Heroes, you get to play with your favorite characters — like Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna — but you can’t chose who you want to be.

You start out playing with a Batman/Superman team, which allows you to switch between the two characters if you’re playing in one-player mode. But, if you wanted to make a Batman/Flash team-up, it isn’t possible.

Then you fight your way through an intricate storyline that brings you to different areas of Metropolis and various parts of the DC Universe. The overall plot is to defeat Brainaic and other top level DC Universe villains. Using different super teams, you face different challenges, ranging from the classic save-the-citizen series to battling super villain Brainiac, who just might not be who he seems.

As you gain more and more experience, you can add points to different slots and boosts to various moves, endurance, etc. Standard punching and kicking doesn’t take much of your endurance, but your special moves, like Superman’s super punch, will drain your endurance bar quickly. Then you must wait for it to come back, which could cost you your life!

You also can’t really execute too many special moves in a row because your endurance bar has to be at a certain level for them to work. As you get too low, you do get somewhat corny lines like "I can’t continue at this level for long!" Word of advice: add to endurance as much as you can.

The characters all have their signature powers, though some are more powerful than others. Superman's laser vision, for example, deals quite a bit of damage, but his cold breath hardly does a thing. Then, you have more interesting powers that produce pretty cool effects.

As Batman, I loved being able to call on a swarm of bats to attack the various foes; and as Zatanna, I could turn all of my enemies into bunnies that needed a good stomping (any Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds fans out there?).

Another great feature is the game's numerous checkpoints. Not only is your progress saved as you reach each one, but if one of your teammates dies, going back to the checkpoint will bring your backup back to life. This is extremely useful considering that each character does have unique powers and abilities and you might need to switch off in order to complete the level.

While good old-fashioned pounding is the name of the game for Justice League Heroes, Batman leans toward the lasers, which deplete his life force.

There were also times when it was easier to let one of my players die in order to defeat some foes. When battling Brainiac, Batman packs more of a punch, but what you need is distance, making Superman the better choice. Also, don't be afraid to run. It's a life-saving strategy to get out of the line of fire, or you can have the villains follow you so you can pick them off one-by-one.

I know it's the natural choice to have Superman and Batman as the game's first tag team, and I admit it was fun playing both characters, but what really interested me was getting to play as the other characters. Superman and Batman are great, but they’ve had how many games made for each of them? After you complete their story, you move on to the Zatanna/Martian Manhunter team, which was definitely more interesting.

The creators got all of the details right, from Martian Manhunter’s mind blasts to Zatanna’s reciting everything backwards for her magic to work.

I started the game by myself, but it wasn't long before I was joined by my 7-year-old (all the time giggling at the sound effects). She liked Batman and Superman, but, like me, really got a kick out of watching Zatanna turn the villains turn into bunnies. But then again, she likes Chaos Bleeds, too.

While it's a great play, the game does get repetitive at times. How many times can you punch the same (or similar in appearance) villain/henchman and rescue more hostages? But once you can play as second- and third-tier heroes, like Zatanna, and are working toward gaining access to unlockable characters, you have a good incentive to plug away at those robots one more time.

The best advice for those whose appetites are whet enough to pick up the game: learn from your mistakes and add points to the stat slots for Zatanna you think will help.

Because of the many unlockables, I wasn’t afraid to die, and in fact, it was sometimes easier since I knew what to expect and was prepared for it.

The bottom line is this game is fun to play, and that’s what I would want a superhero video game to be: FUN. What would be great is if there could be a Justice Society of America companion game and then, like LEGO Star Wars I and II, you could use any of the characters at any level. Hey a fanboy can dream, can’t he?

Justice League Heroes is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language. This game can also be found on: GBA, Nintendo DS, PS2, PSP.

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