Pros: Lively action, some okay puzzles.
Cons: Spends too much time leading players by the hand.
In terms of comic book heroes, Captain America is one of my least favorite. Without the brooding air of a Batman or the glib banter of a Spider-Man, the Captain’s bland all-American style seems well-suited to the propagandistic spirit of World War II but feels out of time amidst the complexities of the modern world. But in video games, attitude takes a back seat to game play, and while I might not want to hang out with Captain America, I did somewhat enjoy being him in Captain America: Super Soldier.
The Basics: A Lot of Action, a Little Puzzle-Solving and Even Less Storytelling.
Captain America spends most of the game wandering around a Nazi castle battling soldiers and robots while solving a number of environmental puzzles that, as in most video games, make no real-world sense. There is little story – Captain America is just helping the allies by clearing out heavy weapons and rescuing the occasional soldier, but at least you always know what’s going on.
Combat is of the basic beat-em-up variety. The Captain can punch or block/counterattack. He can also throw his shield, which is aimed with the Wii remote.
Combat: Your Enemies Tell You When to Hit Them
The game’s approach to combat can be pretty well summed up by the fact that every time you are about to be attacked, an indicator tells you it’s going to happen and what button to press to dodge (the Z button). This is so brain-dead simple that I checked the options to see if there was some way to turn this feature off, but there wasn’t. This makes battle pretty much a matter of pressing the block button when you’re told to and pressing the attack button the rest of the time. The Captain has some interesting moves, as when he grabs the electric gun of an enemy and shocks him with it, but you never feel especially responsible for these cool moves; you’re just pressing buttons and watching.
Occasionally a more interesting enemy appears. There are dual sword-wielding women who cannot generally be dodged or attacked, meaning you need to throw your shield to stun them. Another enemy is impervious to the shield; throw it at him and he’ll toss it in a corner from which you’ll have to retrieve it. But even the most interesting of the thugs are easy to beat once you know how.
Other Gameplay: Jump and Solve, Easily
Soldier has a similarly dumbed-down approach to its platforming elements. An indicator shows you where you can jump, and all you have to do is hit the jump button to get there. While the platforms and ladders look like they offer a Prince of Persia-style experience, they don’t.
The game also offers a little in the way of collectibles. Bombs planted on walls must be destroyed, and captured allies are there to be rescued (although when they’re just sitting on the floor in a big room one wonders exactly why they don’t just get up and leave rather than wait for the Captain to give them a hand up). There are weapon power-ups, although one’s choices are limited and few of the power-ups are all that exciting.
The Verdict: Looking for a Laid-Back Way to Kill a Few Hours? This Could Be It
In the first couple of chapters, Soldier feels inert, a leaden weight of a game that I played somnambulistically. But as I got further in, the game became more fun. Sometimes overwhelming numbers of enemies offered some challenge, as did two very tough boss battles (the final boss battle is surprisingly easy and quite forgettable). The puzzles were straightforward but occasionally required a little thought. Sometimes the game would do something rather clever, like making me destroy inaccessible triggers by guiding homing missiles towards them with my body.
In spite of its flaws, I generally enjoyed Soldier. Sure it’s a too short, too dumbed down, on rails action game, but it’s always fun shooting an explosive barrel next to a nest of enemies or walking up behind an unaware soldier, tapping him on the shoulder and knocking him out with one punch. Like Captain America himself, the game is stolid, bland and forgettable, but it hits just hard enough to get the job done.