Pros: Incredibly exciting, over-the-top combat.
Cons: Repetitive, especially in boss battles.
There is something rather enjoyable about being a god. To be able to call down cyclones or hurl lightning bolts at your foes is just kind of cool. Which is probably why, in spite of some serious flaws, I had so much fun playing Thor: God of Thunder. That kind of power is downright intoxicating.
The Basics: A Beat'em Up With Hammers and Storms
Based on the movie, the game tells the story of Thor’s quest to do this and that at the behest of his plotting brother Loki, whose actual goals I was never clear on. Cut scenes are not fully animated but are instead drawings of the characters gliding across backgrounds, and they are no more interesting story-wise than they are visually.
Fortunately the story takes up very little time, the game being almost entirely devoted to frenetic battles in which Thor battles ice demons and fire demons with his oversized hammer and his powers over the elements.
Being a god, Thor is massively strong as the game begins, wielding a huge hammer that he can swing or throw and being able to bring down a lightning storm. Controls are a mix of button pushes and remote swinging and shaking. You can punch a demon up into the air then hit it a few times and follow it to the ground with a crashing blow that will also damage other nearby demons.
As you progress, you acquire new powers. Some, like the ability to call up cyclones, are given to the player when needed. Others can be purchased as the player acquires currency, giving you some choice in how your god self develops throughout the game.
The Surprise: A Movie-Based Game That's Pretty Darn Fun
Thor is basically a poor-man’s God of War, although one that eschews puzzles in favor of full-out constant combat. While the game lacks the impressive animations and epic story of GOW, it actually does manage to attain some of that game’s adrenaline-pumping excitement.
Besides the melee combat that comprises the bulk of the game, there are also moments where Thor flies through the sky (spinning his hammer like a helicopter blade) firing lightning at attackers. As with ground combat, the excitement is in the frenetic dodging and button punching and swinging of the remote.
At its best, as Thor is swarmed upon by demons, the constant flailing of arms and pressing of buttons to toss, hurl, punch, electrocute and hammer demons and bring down the might of heaven upon them is genuinely thrilling.
This is surprising for a movie tie-in game, as most of these tend to be tired and uninspired. This is often a result of the limited time and resources available to make movie-based games, and developer Red Fly Studio seems to have solved this problem by focusing on creating really great action and cutting corners on everything else.
The Downside: Repeating Bosses and Environments
The result is fun but sketchy. The game essentially has three environments, one in ice caverns, one in a burning underworld and one in what appears to be a modern American city overrun by fire demons. The game looks decent, but there is certainly a lack of variety.
The lack of variety is even more pronounced in the boss battles that end levels. The first boss you meet in the game you will fight again repeatedly in all the ice levels, and while it gains a few more attacks as you proceed, it is always essentially the same and you always beat it in the same way (a mix of standard attacks ending with QTE sequences in which you press whatever button the game tells you to press, although once to my surprise I managed to vanquish a boss by knocking him off a cliff).
After the ice levels, you begin running into a fire boss. Not only do you fight this boss over and over at the end of multiple levels, but it really isn’t all that different from the ice boss that preceded it. In fact, while there are numerous boss battles in the game, I would say there are only perhaps 3, maybe 4, distinct bosses in the game. While in many games boss battles are a high point, in Thor they just drag the game down, and the developers would have been better off having less of these battles rather than forcing players to continuously fight the same one.
The Verdict: Flawed But Still a Fun Ride
In spite of its flaws, I really enjoyed Thor. In fact, this is the most fun I’ve had playing a game since January’s Lost in Shadow, although that is as much a reflection on the quality of this year’s crop of Wii games as it a measure of Thor’s excellence. You could not call it a great game, or a memorable one, but being a so-so god is still better than being no god at all.