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Friday, November 13,2009

Marvel doubles the fun

By Justin Hoeger

In "Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2," a battle between superheroes and the villain Nitro has left hundreds dead, prompting Congress to pass the Superhuman Registration Act: All beings with unusual powers must reveal their identities and register with the government, or face capture and imprisonment.

The super community is split down the middle. Iron Man heads up the faction that's legalized and has been put in charge of hunting down the rebels, led by a disillusioned Captain America.

The player gets to choose which side to join after the first few levels of the game, which affects which missions will be available, which famous Marvel characters the player will be able to use and which they'll fight against.

"MUA2" plays a heck of a lot like the original. Players select a team of four superheroes and take them into beat-'em-up combat with a light RPG flavor. Up to four players can control these heroes, online or off.

Powers and abilities fall in line with each character's nature. Wolverine attacks with his claws and heals over time, Mr. Fantastic stretches his limbs, the Human Torch throws fire, and so on. Many characters need to be unlocked, but once they're available, a player can swap them in and out of the team at will. Forming specific groups of superhumans, such as the Fantastic Four, imparts a bonus for that team.

A new combat feature is Fusion attacks. Built up over time by defeating foes, Fusions allow any two characters to join for a powerful special move.

In a similar vein to "MUA2" but not as complex, and aimed at a younger audience is "Marvel Super Hero Squad." Based on the cutesy, big-headed line of Marvel toys and the show that goes with them, this two-player game features several heroes as they try to stop a nefarious plan by Doctor Doom and his minions.

Much of the game is a straightforward brawler that two players can participate in. Each hero has a few attacks and combos that employ button presses and movements of the Wii Remote or Nunchuk.

There is also a four-player battle mode similar to "Super Smash Bros." or "Power Stone" — heroes and villains fight it out in customizable free-for-alls or team matches. The moves here are slightly different and more varied than in the brawler segments.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Publisher: Activision

System: Microsoft Xbox 360, also for Sony PlayStation 3, PS2, PSP, Nintendo Wii, DS

Price: $59.99 ($29.99 to $59.99 for other versions)

Age rating: Teen

Marvel Super Hero Squad

Publisher: THQ

System: Nintendo Wii, also for DS, PS2, PSP

Price: $39.99 ($19.99 to $29.99 for other versions)

Age rating: 10-plus

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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