PowerUp Heroes arrived to the US after hitting the UK and I had my chance to play it. For those that do not know about it, here’s the synopsis:

Your Kinect Avatar has just been given superpowers! Feel what it’s like to be a superhero as you save the universe on your Xbox Kinect. With the fate of the entire cosmos on the line, you’ll wield the powers of your brand-new super suit and face down the forces of evil in full-body brawls. PowerUp your avatar with the Mentalist suit, which lets you hack enemy’s minds, or the Necromancer suit, which puts you in command of a skeleton army. You’ll rack up a new suit each time you defeat an enemy, earning their suit – and their powers – with your hard-fought victory.

Overview

PowerUp Heroes was created to bring a different type of fighting genre to Kinect and Xbox for that matter. The idea was fantastic, but the game that was created off of it is unfortunate. The idea is to fight your way through the bad guys using super powers as well as close combat. As you defeat your opponents, you inherit their super powers to help defeat the evil one that controls them all. Like I said, it’s a fantastic idea, but you have to back it up.

The Menu

The menu again is borrowed from Dance Central, I sense all future Ubisoft titles will be using the DC menu, however it can be clunky at times so its not perfect. Within the main menu, you have several options. Your first is the campaign mode, followed by Fight!, Xbox Live Battle, Extras and finally Uplay. I will go in order of the menu and describe everything for you in detail.

Campaign Mode

This is the story mode of the game. The story is mediocre at best, but it is typical. A tough evil leader has all this minions and are trying to take over the world. You are Earth’s last hope as the super hero dies, he transfers his power to you (reminded me of the new Green Lantern actually, so no bonus points for originality). Now that you acquire these powers, you get to try them out with your first bad guy. Each suit contains 3 super powers/special powers, whatever you want to call them. Typically the first one is some kind of stun attack that will allow you to start a combo. The second and third attacks are usually either a devastating attack or a defensive attack, and they could be reversed. The key is to remember or become familiar with the suits you are using so you can plan for super combo attacks. You do get to choose new suits and new powerups in a ready room, which kind of reminded me of something from X-Men.

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The "Ready Room"

As for other attacks, a lazy version of a close combat system was put in place, however it’s somewhat accurate as in detecting which hand/leg you are punching or kicking with, yet it responds slowly causing you frustration and a workout. To initiate close combat, you have to lift up one of your knees. This lunges your avatar forward and you can start to wail on your opponent, but typically it’s a 5-hit combo, then you need to finish him/her off with a surprise punch or kick. This is where accuracy becomes annoying as if its a right hand punch, and you use your left, it won’t finish the combo and you end up getting punched or kicked. You can also punch from a distance sending energy projectiles at your opponent. This is best used if your opponent is charging up a super power move, you can disrupt it. On the other end, it becomes very annoying. As for defensive moves, there are only 2 suits that offer a 10 second force field, and you can dodge left or right. You can’t really move your character around, you also have a counter attack kick if the AI attempts to close combat you, however it’s usually so quick that you miss it because you are focused on doing something else, so then you have to do this random pattern of hands up, elbows up to counter attack.

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Example of the close-combat system

In the above picture, there is also a RAGE meter. If you take enough damage without dishing it out, you can go into Rage mode. This is just a hyper active mode that allows you to unleash about 2 super powers before you drain it. It’s an ok feature, although it doesn’t help turn the tide of the battle.

In previous comments, I mentioned suits. After you beat your first opponent, you inherit a second suit. Throughout the remainder of the game, you will be able to switch between 2 suits and thankfully it’s a blessing. Some of the bad guys are difficult and beating them with one suit would be almost impossible. Instead of having only 3 super powers, you inherit 6. This will allow you to achieve super combo’s which is typically achieved by switching suits a couple of times. The problem with this is you have to be really fast, we all know Kinect is not as responsive as a controller, so you will swear up and down that you did it first, but the opponent will usually beat you to it making you frustrated at certain times. The only fair match is when you play 2-player split screen.

To use your super powers, you are instructed the starting gesture to start the super power. For example, one super power requires you to raise your right hand up, once you do this, you begin that super power. Now if you get hit while in mid-super power move, you lose the chance to use the move and you have to wait for the move to become available again. Once in mid-move, you will receive a motion gesture on what to do next. Most of the moves are fairly easy to figure out, but some are tricky. This particular move I’m referencing to has you pull your right arm back down such as doing a “whip” action. Other moves will have you hold certain positions, and there’s even some Dragonball Z/Street Fighter type moves in there.

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At least it looks cool?

There are a total of 18 suits that are unlockable in the campaign, however there are actually only 12 unique suits. The remaining 8 are just labelled as an “X” version of a suit you already have, they basically have 1 or 2 different super powers. I will spoil this for some, but you can obtain a “Rabbids” suit and an “Ezio” suit. There are also 2 more unlockable suits available in the UPlay which I mention below for a total of 20 suits. In any fight mode, you obtain experience points. There are 10 levels you can upgrade your character to, but playing through the campaign will only get you to about level 2, level 3 if you lost a lot. Every level that you increase your character, you obtain a new “PowerUp” hence the title. PowerUps range from stronger counter-attack moves, super powers do no harm, etc. There is also one unlockable powerup available immediately from Uplay.

The campaign is entertaining until you get to the last guy. There are only 17 battles, this makes for a VERY short campaign. I made it through the 16 battles in about 1 1/2 hours losing a couple here and there. The last guy though, talk about annoying – it took me about an hour of retrying to finally beat him. This kind of frustration in this kind of game is really not welcomed. So if you are a real super hero, you can probably make it through the whole game in about an hour.

Fight Mode

This mode will probably be used more than the campaign mode. This allows a versus mode which is simultaneous split-screen for 2 players. There is also a practice mode in case you really need help getting some moves down. You can just keep unleashing following the gestures properly. Lastly, there is a tournament mode which is more of a party mode. It’s for 3 or 4 players and you take turns fighting each other. This makes it more interesting because it’s kind of a bracket/ladder match with a semi-finals and finals match, so if you 4 people need to prove to each other, who’s the best superhero, they can!

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The split screen duel

 

Xbox Live Battle Mode

Fortunately, there is a xbox live mode that allows quick unranked matches, ranked matches or private matches. You can also setup a Live party session as well if your friends have this game. Lastly, there is an online leaderboard as well. Unfortunately I don’t think the game is complex enough to survive on Live features alone, as I did attempt to find a match but I was unlucky in my search.

Extras

The extras aren’t really extras, just more of an area to throw stuff in that didn’t fit anywhere. In this section, you have “Attract Mode Video” which is just the introduction video to the game, the credits, Avatar Supersuits which are available to purchase in the marketplace for your avatar to show off to the world, concept art – which is locked until you beat the campaign – and finally audio options.

UPlay

As with all Ubisoft titles, UPlay once again is included. There are 4 rewards and 4 awards. The 4 rewards are the following:

PowerUp Heroes Theme – 10 Points

Life Drainer PowerUp – 20 Points (This allows you to drain a little bit of life in the beginning of the match if equipped)

Volta of Death – 30 Points (This is a super Volta suit, which is the first suit you unlock, it’s kind of unique, but the same name)

The Thief – 40 Points (This is a unique suit)

The Controls

Unfortunately this is another area that the game lacks. The controls work for the most part if you know exactly what you want to do, however mix in the AI doing random things to you or causing you to fail a super power, and your whole plan is foiled. Some matches can become frustrating. The last enemy you fight is the most frustrating because he’s on super speed and you just can’t logically be faster than the game, either due to Kinect or the game itself. The only trick I was able to use was to actually close combat fight him, however the AI picks up on this so you need to randomly throw a super power in every now and then to confuse it. I was impressed that it was able to determine if I was using my left or right hands/feet, however it doesn’t detect all of the gestures accurately and 2 super powers having similar gestures really confuse it. It’s a clunky system that needs to be worked on.

Graphics & Sound

I only mention this area because a lot of reviews I have read complain about the avatar graphics. There’s an option to turn helmets on for your avatars. Once I did this, I kind of forgot I was playing with avatars so this might be a help to some if the avatar world is too cartoony. The sound effects/music is spot on though to fit in with a super hero universe.

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It's much better with helmets on

 

Conclusion

Unfortunately, this would have been a great title for both kids and adults if it would had more content, had more fluent controls and was more in-depth/complex. Being as it is, it may be good for the kids if they have friends over and want to show off some moves to their friends, for adults, not so much. I also noticed some buggy things as well with the game. One instance, before every fight, there is a screen that has 3 comic like pictures before introducing you to the arena you fight in. Sometimes this screen would not load and would just remain black, with Loading… blinking (talk about some cheap loading screens by the way), what I did is if you move your hand around, you will get a skip option to pop up, skipping it allows you to continue into the game. Another bug I found was in one match, my avatar randomly just laid down and wouldn’t get up.

I had high hopes for this game, and the initial thrill is great, but after you complete it, you want so much more and want it to work so much better. I feel this is one of Ubisoft’s rushed titles again, possibly they were hoping to claim some glory before Dance Central 2 and Kinect Sports Season 2 hit the shelves the following week, but this is the first game I have played that had clunky menu controls as well the bugs in the game since the latest round of titles that have been released, very unfortunate, this game could have been so much more. All is not lost though, Capcom probably got a glimpse of this game, so let’s hope the next Marvel vs. Capcom utilizes Kinect.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of PowerUp Heroes
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