Superman/Batman: Heroes United

If 2008 told us anything, it's that superhero movies are still big business. However, we’re getting to the point where producers and other money men have to delve ever deeper into comic circles to search for their next blockbuster.

All the big boys have been tapped. Watchmen may be the comic geek’s Tolstoy, but it won’t necessarily incite that all-important spark of excitement in you average popcorn-swilling, talking-during-the-film, mobile-phone-screen-checking film goer.

No such problems here though. Merging two of the biggest names from the comic universe mean a sure-fire hit, right?

Maybe. Superman/Batman’s source is based very much the superhero comics rather than any films. Nowhere is this more evident than in the two main sprites.

You get to play as both Superman and the bat, more or less in turns, through the levels, and both are superlative examples of how to evoke a comic book sensibility on the small screen. Excellently animated with a kinetic feel, they’re a pleasure to gaze upon.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid noticing the game’s weaknesses once the initial awe has died down.

As Superman, the ‘2‘, ‘4‘, ‘6’ and ‘8’ keys steer the flying superhero about the screen. Batman’s controls are a little more traditional, with the ‘2’ key used for jumping, while a mid-air tap of the key makes the Dark Knight grapple up to the next platform.

Superman’s action is largely focused on avoiding airborne mines and taking care of enemies, while Batman offers up a standard action platformer.

So far so good, but once you encounter an enemy things move steadily downhill. Each superhero has two abilities, other than the basic punches. Batman can throw his Batarang or explosive charges at enemies where Superman has his laser eyes and icy breath at his disposal.

However, these feel more inert than they should, pushing the enemy back a little and causing only slightly more damage than a normal punch. They’ve evidently been toned down for balance issues, as you can use them a number of times in a row, but they’re decidedly un-special special moves.

Find yourself with enemies on both sides and it’s almost impossible to escape. Even trying to use Batman’s grappling hook will see you brought back to earth by an enemy attack.

Add this to the fact that you can’t use special moves while jumping and can’t jump on top of enemies - even though it’s virtually one of Batman's signature moves - and you're left with a pair of characters that feel positively clumsy.

One on one the enemies are no match for you, but since a pair can finish you off, you’re left scurrying away from groups of enemies to take them on one at a time, which feels decidedly un-heroic.

The level design doesn’t offer any respite from these disappointments either. The environments are so featureless and drab that the dull level design is laid bare.

It doesn’t quite make sense that the level backgrounds should be so yawn-inducingly uninteresting when the main characters are drawn so well. Then again, the enemy visuals don’t match up to this greatness either, making the heroes the exception rather than the rule.

Superman/Batman: Heroes United is neither terrible nor broken, but the graphics are by far the best thing about it. In terms of gameplay and controls, it punches way below its weight, and will appeal far more to comic book fans that to the rest of us.

Superman/Batman: Heroes United

Even if Superman/Batman is little more than a fairly mediocre action game, real fans of the comic books will eke some joy out of the super re-creations of some of their favourite characters. For the rest of us, there's not much reason to check out this title