“It’s a bird…it’s a plane…” No, I promised myself I wouldn’t do that.
Superman HD has arrived for the iPad – there is a separate version for the iPhone if you are tablet-challenged – and oddly enough, this may just be the best Superman game I’ve played since they started trying to make them. With 18 levels of superhero action waiting above and on the streets of Metropolis, slip on those blue PJ’s and red cape and boots and save the Earth once again.
At its Kryptonite core, Superman is an arcade game where you fly (and sometimes run) around using a virtual D-pad and perform all sorts of superhero actions like heat vision, icy breath, turbo boosts, and the occasional vehicular beat down. There is usually some timed event going on like the city slowly burning down, which forces you to seek out burning buildings and blow out the flames to slow or reverse the creeping red zone on the mini-map. You can fly over the skyline or even run down the street to eliminate Lex Luthor’s thugs and other dangerous enemies with your heat vision lasers. At times the gameplay reminded me of the old classic shooter, Defender.
Later on you will get to fight giant mechs, helicopters, and even go into space to shoot down meteors. Helpful arrows will point you in the direction of off-screen enemies and objectives and a turbo button provides a boost of speed to get you there in a hurry. All of your other abilities are assigned to a context-sensitive action button, so if you are near an enemy you’ll fire heat vision and if you are near a flame you’ll blast it with your super-cool breath. If you're perched on a speeding car you can bash it into scrap metal. And if you don’t enjoy the touch or D-pad controls you can always opt for the tilt function– this works pretty good on the iPhone but not as much on the larger iPad.
The graphics are delightfully simple, almost like a high-res Flash game. I was reminded of 2D classics like Rampage and Crazy Climber with all the repetitive building textures. The simple sprite animations for the thugs, cars, and anything else that moves were all crisp and cleanly designed. Superman looks great, even if he only does strike a few poses based on his direction and specific action. Ultimately, it’s a comic book come to life.
Superman HD is a pretty fun game. I wish the sound was a bit louder – even at max volume you really have to strain to hear it. Headphones are a must if there is any ambient noise in the room. I was also disappointed this was not a universal app. There is no reason to charge for a dedicated copy on each device. And yes, some of the levels do get a bit long for a mobile game, and the gameplay does get a bit repetitive if you play for a long time.
But overall, if you are a fan of Superman and love the whole multi-directional scrolling shooter genre, this game won’t disappoint, especially if you played Chillingo's earlier game, Hero HD; very similar only this time you are the Man of Steel. Accept no subsitutes.