Superheroes always provide good material for a game. By default they spend most of their time doing what we all want to do in games – flying, punching up bad guys and using super-strength to pick up buses and chuck them around like paper cups.
So new(ish) US TV series Heroes was always going to be a good choice for whoever got to sign it up. Because for one, it doesn't just have one superhero, it has a whole pack of them. And, interestingly, their superpowers are somewhat atypical, ranging from spontaneous regeneration to being able to paint the future.
Of those available, Gameloft, holder of the desirable license, has picked out three of the heroes to star in this game (essentially, those with the powers best suited to the medium), although others make unplayable appearances. The three – a different one is playable in each new level – cover flying, altering time, super human strength, and telekenesis. In other words, enough to keep the action fresh throughout.
True, there's some repetition in the later levels but the gameplay is generally kept mixed up, and the ideas continue to be expanded on as you progress. And while some of the combat is generic, there's more than enough to stand Heroes out from a lot of similar games.
Your starting character, Niki Sanders, is probably the least exciting to play as given that her levels are mostly made up of fighting. That said, there is more to her than a few kung fu moves. For instance, she can pick things up – in the Vegas casino you start off in that equates to hefty fruit machines lying around – and lob them at opponents.
That's not all, though. Her in-game special power (every character has one, which is activated with '0' and only lasts as long as your special power meter) is to obliterate everyone onscreen with one zap. Oh, and she can also grab guns off downed enemies to use for herself.
Next up is Hiro, the computer programmer with time-bending skills. He's not immediately able to fight his enemies and instead must use stealth to break into a museum to retrieve a very special sword.
Stealth, we should point out, can ring loud alarm bells for us as, when done badly, it can be the most frustrating thing on Earth. In fact, even done well it can get tedious. But, amazingly, the stealth sections here are good fun – partly because triggering Hiro's time-slowing ability makes nipping past patrolling guards much easier, and partly because there are generous save points throughout.
Plenty of ideas are introduced into Hiro's segments, too. For instance, moving statues to interrupt laser alarms, dodging cars and finding key cards to unlock doors. His levels are much more exploration and puzzle-solving based (later on, you help him on a quest to find a little girl who's about to step into the road in front of a bus, for example), and he also occasionally teams up with Matt Parkman, the LA police officer who can hear other people's thoughts.
Peter Petrelli, who's able to absorb the powers of other people, giving him a range of possibilites, completes the trilogy. In his first level he's flying through fast-paced, obstacle-dodging, item-collecting sections and using telekenesis to solve puzzles. Later, there's a stand-out moment where he must slot falling bits of scaffolding to form a bridge, Tetris style.
With so much variety, it's easy to get hooked into Heroes just to see what's around the next corner. Most of it works well, too, although there are drawbacks. Occasionally, the controls aren't responsive enough, so your superpower sometimes isn't activated at the split-second you need it to be. Likewise with the combat controls – not being able to shoot or punch in all directions can be problematic when you're surrounded by a gang of goons.
But to return to the positives, the visuals are great, with a good variety of environments to get through. And, importantly, they're backed by decent audio.
Ultimately, it all adds up to an enjoyable action package. And, pleasingly, one that proves far more innovative than the average licensed platformer this would normally have turned out to be.