There is a cracker of a premise in Amazing Superhero Squad. What if you were the leader of a gang of superheroes – a Nick Fury or a Vought International – and you could manage the missions they were sent on? Picture a football management game, but the shorts are on the outside of the trousers. It’s a doozie, right? We can imagine gleefully sending Wolverine to a kids’ party and Magneto to find a needle in a haystack. That’s a game we want to play.
Now, Amazing Superhero Squad – drum roll – isn’t that game. It should be, but it isn’t. It attempts a superhero landing, but instead crashes face-first into the tarmac. Which is a tremendous shame.
It certainly looks the part. The artists on Amazing Superhero Squad deserve a round of applause: the comic book artwork gives immense character to superheroes that would have, otherwise, been lines in a spreadsheet. The heroes have no character or use outside of a single icon on their hero card (more on that later), and the artwork elevates them. The same goes for the art on the mission cards that you are sent to complete: considering they are cards drawn randomly from a deck (meaning that you may never see them), they ooze character.
A second round of applause, if you please, for the audio team. Amazing Superhero Squad has a soundtrack that simmers and throbs, an electronica fan’s wet dream. These earworms wiggled in and stayed there, which is more than we expected from a budget management sim.
That’s where the clapping stops, however, as the remainder of Amazing Superhero Squad is lackluster. The disappointment doesn’t just come from it being a missed opportunity: the problem is that it’s barely even a game. There are choices, and you can do things, but they are so mundane and pointless that it’s the equivalent of a toddler’s shape sorter.
A game of Amazing Superhero Squad goes something like this: you are dealt a series of situation cards, constituting a day in the life of your superhero company. Each card has a symbol on it. Your likelihood of successfully completing the mission increases if you attach a superhero to the task with the corresponding symbol. Got a single-dot mission? Best send a single-dot hero.
Not got a corresponding hero? Perhaps you should head to the shop and hire one, as you can easily dismiss, hire and rehire heroes within seconds (clearly, superheroes need a better union). You can probably imagine the problem, and see why we compared it to a kid’s shape sorter. The majority of the gameplay in Amazing Superhero Squad is matching shapes. If you don’t match shapes, you’re going to lose, so there’s nothing else for it: you better get good at matching four circles to four circles.
We’re being a little facetious, as there are some icons on the hero and mission cards that might factor into your decision. Some heroes are lone wolves, so are better alone. Others improve when they’re in a team. You might (and emphasis on the might here) want to switch out heroes based on these factors. And each mission card has a reward (some even have penalties). If you’re low on one of the four commodities in Amazing Superhero Squad – cash, fans, shareholder price and mayoral appreciation – then you might want to embark on missions that replenish it.
But it’s all too easy to say ‘stuff it’ and coast on your shape-sorting skills. Because Amazing Superhero Squad, if you abide by this single rule, is not altogether difficult. Unless RNG bit us repeatedly on the bottom, we would be well stocked in all of our commodities, and not be particularly close to failing (you lose and have to restart a chapter if you reach zero in any of them). The lack of difficulty means a lack of paying attention, and soon you stop reading the missions and the scenarios they dream up. When all you have to do is match four circles with four circles, why would you pay attention?
We started rummaging around, looking for extra things to interact with. Perhaps we were doing it wrong? We were paddling in an extremely shallow pool, so there must be a deep end somewhere. Alas, there was none.
There’s an argument that it makes for a benign, relaxing management sim, like a visual novel but with more options. But Amazing Superhero Squad gets more wrong than just the critical, fatal problem of not including anything to play with.
The UX in Amazing Superhero Squad is absolutely shot. Navigating the menus with a game controller is never less than uncomfortable. The interface-highlighting refuses to move where you want it to. It got to the point that we would return to the main menu and come back in again, simply so that the cursor would default back to where we needed it. Some of the mappings are bizarre, too: sifting through the results of your missions at the end of the day is done with a nudge to the left, rather than something more intuitive, like pressing A.
And for a game that is reductively, bizarrely simple, the tutorial is a quagmire. It pulls up a dumper truck and offloads text screens onto you, but without context or anything approaching clarity. It’s possible to come out of the tutorial with no idea what to do, yet the game has so few layers that it’s positively naked. The tutorial could and should have been a single sentence.
We’d like to take a parting shot at the writing. One of the reasons we stopped reading the mission cards was because they were incomprehensible. Whether it’s down to mistranslation or a penchant for the abstract, well, we don’t know, but it’s possible to make no sense whatsoever of an entire mission. We wondered if we were sleepy and not quite paying attention, but we showed it to our partner and they frowned and agreed. We also get the feeling that there’s an overarching plot here, with recurring characters, but we couldn’t hold onto the thread that kept them together,
Amazing Superhero Squad should have been a home run. A superhero management sim gets us reaching involuntarily for our wallet. We don’t need action-packed cutscenes or combat gameplay: we just need some heroes with a very particular sets of skills, and some missions to send them on.
But Amazing Superhero Squad fluffs it. What should have been a deep and strategic hero simulator is instead a shape-matching game with the shallowest of gameplay puddles to splash around in. We thought being Nick Fury for a day would be fun; as it turns out, it’s as mundane and simple as putting on his eyepatch every morning.
You can buy Amazing Superhero Squad from the Xbox Store
- Exquisite artwork
- Sold synth soundtrack
- Gameplay is way, way too basic
- Too easy if you abide by its one rule
- Begins to grate after half an hour
- Something is off about the writing quality
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Sometimes You
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 25 May 2022
- Launch price from - £5.79