Superman: Shadow of Apokolips Review

Developer: Infogrames Publisher: Infogrames
Release Date: March 26, 2003 Also On: GCN and PS2

Heroes haven’t really had the best of luck in recent console generations in terms of the quality of games spawned using their licenses. From profoundly average titles like Batman Vengeance to absolutely pitiful ones like Superman 64, heroes haven’t received their due. At least that could have been said until this game was released. Yes, it has its problems, but Shadow of Apokolips is a fine game in most regards.

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The graphics in this game are simply amazing. The cel-shading, both of the cutscenes and of the actual missions themselves, actually give you the idea that you’re watching a Superman cartoon. There may be a clipping error or two here or there, but the game keeps up a steady framerate for the most part, an amazing feat considering the amount of enemies that Superman sometimes has to fight, most all of whom possess projectile weapons as well. Overall, there are a few glitches, but otherwise the graphics are as good as can be expected for a superhero game.

I don’t even know where to begin with the sound. The sound effects sound pretty good for a cartoon-based game, but the sound effects are actually the low point of the sound in this game. They are complemented by music that actually fits both the situations it is used for and the feel of the game as a whole. On top of this, the voice acting does an excellent job of contributing to the whole cartoon feel of the game as well, as it is done very well, much better than the voice acting in many games I’ve played that have it. Overall, only the sound effects could count any points against this game.

The gameplay is also executed very well. Every power Superman is known to have from the basics like flight and the heat ray vision to the less often seen x-ray vision are not only in the game but also have places where they are used. This isn’t just a beat em’ up, although there are times where it may seem like one. Instead, it is a highly sophisticated mission-based action game based on the character of Superman. The missions are the type of things that Superman could logically be expected to undertake, and the plot underlying all of them is also believable.

Even the factor of Superman drawing energy from Earth’s sun is shown in a constantly restoring health bar and super power bar, although the fact that some of Superman’s powers are limited is a factor that I would say hinders the game’s cartoony feel. I remember no cartoon, or comic book for that matter, iteration of Superman that had a limited ability to utilize his unique abilities. However, I can understand that this particular addition to the game is simply an attempt to prevent the player from keeping his distance and heat visioning his way through all groups of enemies, although the constantly restoring superpower bar means that a quick tactical retreat to wait for that bar to reload will be a constantly used option.

At least it would be, if it weren’t for one other thing that the game borrowed from the cartoon, a sense of urgency. Superman is all about urgency, and this game is no different. Whether you’re trying to push pins back into a dam to stop it from breaking or trying to put coolant in a reactor to keep it from exploding, many of the objectives in Shadow of Apokolips will be timed. You can follow your timer as a series of little dots working its way around your radar. I can’t say that I’m overly fond of timed objectives, but they do contribute to giving the game a little more of a Superman feel.

The game even controls fairly well, for the most part. Sometimes Superman can be hard to control when he’s flying at full speed and you’ll find yourself running into walls that you didn’t mean to run into. You’ll also find that sometimes Superman will target inanimate objects for his heat vision zaps when you want him to target bad guys. One other thing is that your radar will sometimes be so covered with little blips representing various things that you’ll have trouble telling where all your objectives are because one’s hidden under a blip that represents an enemy, or something like that. Aside from these things, the presence of a stealth level as Clark Kent is also something I could have done without.

Aside from those three things, my only major complaint is that by the time you get to the four boss battle missions that form the end of the game (yep, the geniuses that designed this game saved all the boss battles for the end), you will have already undertaken several objectives which, by merit of their time limits, are far harder than dealing with your superpowered foes. Indeed, one of them, one who couldn’t fly, I was able to convince to just sit on the ground wondering where I was while I hovered above him, targeted him, and took down about half of a phase’s lifebar without him even knowing I was hitting him. I’m sorry, but that close to the end of a game, the bosses need to be a little smarter than that. Also, the fact that you can run around for a while to restore your lifebar whenever you need to doesn’t help matters in the boss department much.

One other thing that should be mentioned is that this game has a cheat menu. Unfortunately, there are cheats for just about anything you could possibly want, whether it is to just make the portions where you have to hit a button rapidly easier or whether it be totally eliminating the time limits on objectives. There are even cheat codes to unlock everything that there is in the game to be unlocked. For those of you who enjoy cheating, this will be a bonus. For those of you who believe in doing things the old-fashioned way, the cheat menu things are totally optional. A win-win situation either way, but cheating does sort of eliminate the honor of victory in my opinion.

Overall, Superman: Shadow of Apokolips is a great game that should be experienced by all fans of Superman, and even by all fans of objective-based action games in general. By now, it should be inexpensive enough to more than make up for the fact that it is fairly short, although multiple skill levels help in that matter also. I would wholeheartedly recommend this game to anybody with a GCN or PS2.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 7.2
Written by Martin Review Guide

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