Licensed games had a bad reputation, so I was a little worried about Iron Man 2 for the Nintendo DS. Nobody wants to waste their time with bad video games, but I’ve already decided to play and beat each one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-ins that were released on the Nintendo DS. With Iron Man 2 being the last one on the list, I was simply hoping for a decent experience.
Did I feel like I wasted my time with this game? Well, let’s talk about it!
The Nintendo DS version of Iron Man 2 is an action game that was developed by Griptonite Games and published by Sega. This game is supposed to be based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe film, but it seems to take place after the events of the movie. You will have to take on the role of both Iron Man and War Machine in one playthrough.
The two heroes play quite differently from each other: Iron Man’s sequences play like a platformer only he can perpetually fly at any time. Meanwhile, War Machine’s sequences play like a side view twin-stick shooter. Occasionally, you’ll encounter side scrolling shoot ’em up sequences as well. The game has six chapters and you’ll need to play in one Iron Man sequence, one War Machine sequence, a side scrolling shooter level, and a boss battle.
Your heroes have health bars which gradually regenerates over time. When your hero’s health bar is drained, your hero gets knocked out. You have unlimited lives in this game, but you are limited to three retries per level. However, you’ll need to play a puzzle mini-game before you can use a retry. If you fail, you’ll have to start that level from the beginning. Successfully solving the mini-game will revive you at the point where you were knocked out. Following modern game design, the game utilizes a save system with three save slots.
Moves and Abilities
I really liked how the developers were able to differentiate Iron Man from War Machine. Stark plays like a typical action platforming character – he can jump, crouch, and the D-Pad controls his movement. He’s got the ability to hover and fly. He’s got melee and projectile attacks, which he can use in flight or on the ground. His repulsor blasts can be aimed in eight different directions. He also has an energy shield which can deflect enemy projectiles when timed properly. As Iron Man, you’ll need to utilize the face buttons frequently.
Meanwhile, the face buttons function the same as the D-Pad when playing as War Machine, which controls his movement. Simply pressing Up or X will make him fly. To attack, you’ll need to use the touchscreen to control his crosshairs. Tapping the touchscreen launches grenades, while holding it uses the chain gun. Pressing the L or B button locks on to targets and lets him fire homing missiles. Because aiming is controlled via the touchscreen, War Machine has a full 360 aiming range.
The game will force you to play the same stages as Iron Man and War Machine and I have to say, the developers did a good enough job of implementing mechanics that make the gameplay experience different. You can also buy upgrades using points earned by beating levels that will either change their powers or give them additional abilities, which further improves gameplay.
There are several collectible items in Iron Man 2 that encouraged me to replay levels several times over. These items are hidden all throughout the game’s levels. Iron Man and War Machine have their own sets of collectibles. The most important of these are the upgrades. The red lightning item improves attack, while the blue shield item increases the health bar.
The other collectibles are simply collectibles. There are two types: comic book covers and concept art. Both have no real purpose, other than to serve as achievements. I think one of the unlockable armors become unlocked when you find all these collectibles.
My only gripe regarding the collectibles is that you can’t find all of them in one run. All the stages that have collectibles have forks, and you’ll be forced to choose one and only one of those paths. If you want to try the other path, you’ll have to replay the stage from the beginning.
It’s nice that each stage offers alternate routes, but only about 30%-40% of a stage is actually different. If you miss a collectible, you’ll have to replay the stage from the beginning. Don’t forget, you’ll have to play stages as both Iron Man and War Machine. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find all of the collectibles and upgrades in a stage after going through it a minimum of four times. I can’t help but feel that the developers did this to artificially increase the game’s replay value.
I did like the added content that Iron Man 2 had. First off, instead of simply navigating a menu, you actually can play as Tony Stark in his base of operations. To choose different game modes, you had to go to different parts of his base.
The game also has unlockable armors – Iron Man and War Machine can each have up to six armors to choose from. Some of these suits can only be unlocked after you hit specific requirements, like beating an entire level using only melee attacks. These suits are purely aesthetic, but only Iron Man fans are probably going to bother with this game. So I’m sure they’re going to appreciate having these options, like I did.
There’s a game mode called the Combat Room where you can fight the game’s regular enemies in combat simulations. After defeating a boss, you’ll be able to unlock their simulation here too. So you can keep replaying your favorite boss battles here.
The Combat Room is a neat idea, but even the most difficult regular enemy simulations will only offer a handful of enemies. I wish this game had an endless mode where you would need to survive as long as you can against an endless wave of enemies. Aside from the boss battles, there’s really no point to this mode once you’ve beaten the challenges.
When it comes to superhero games, the boss battles are what I look forward to the most. And unfortunately, Iron Man 2’s boss battles disappointed me. The character choices were good, and they were actually designed well enough. Crimson Dynamo makes two appearances, and his moves and powers do make sense.
You get to fight the comic book version of Ghost, who can phase in and out of sight any time he wants. The battle with him is a little annoying, actually. He never stays in one place for too long, so you’ll need to keep chasing after him.
There’s also the Mauler, which is just another guy in a high tech suit of armor. He’s got powers similar to both Iron Man and War Machine which should have been interesting.
My main problem with this game’s boss battles is the difficulty – they’re just too easy to beat. The only boss fights I had trouble with are the final two ones, which I won’t spoil. The rest of this game’s boss characters can be beaten even when they’re offscreen. Just keep your distance and keep shooting at them with your projectile attacks. This made the boss battles quite forgettable.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
I normally don’t like 3D polygon graphics from this era, but it was actually quite fitting for Iron Man 2, given that our heroes are in robotic suits and most of the enemies are mechanical in nature as well. There’s a good level of detail in everything; from our heroes, to each of the enemies, and to the locations and stages. The suitcase armor from the film makes an appearance here, and even that is quite recognizable.
I also liked this game’s music and sound design, especially the main theme. It’s been a while since I saw the Iron Man 2 film, so I’m not sure if this game used any of that movie’s soundtrack. If this game’s music was brand new, then the developers nailed the feel of the movies. I also loved all the metallic clanks that happen when you walk or hit enemies. It is all done well and helped me enjoy the game.
And while I didn’t enjoy this game’s story (no spoilers), I will say that I loved this game’s presentation. It did have some cutscenes, which used the actor’s likenesses. Even the headshots in the static dialogues look exactly like how the actors did in the film. The developers definitely put some effort into polishing this game.
There’s a lot that I liked about Iron Man 2 but at the end of it all, I was disappointed. I beat the game in under 10 hours with 100% completion. And I had to replay some stages as many as six times, just to look for collectibles I missed. This game definitely needed more content to flesh it out, probably two or three more chapters.
And personally, while I was impressed with the way the developers implemented different mechanics for Iron Man and War Machine, I didn’t like how they designed the flow of the game. Forcing me to replay the same stages as both heroes right away made it feel repetitive. I would have preferred being asked to choose either Iron Man or War Machine at the beginning of the game, then playing all throughout as them. Kind of like Castlevania: Bloodlines where you could play as John Morris or Eric Lecarde.
Iron Man 2 is a decent game in my eyes. Yes, I was disappointed, but I still generally enjoyed my time with it. It’s hard for me to recommend this game to anyone who isn’t an Iron Man or Marvel fan though.