Marvel Super Hero Squad Online

Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is a browser based, family-friendly MMO by Gazillion Entertainment, featuring all your favourite Marvel superheroes and a variety of missions and minigames.

Marvel Super Hero Squad Online

The game is free to play, but there are two paid options: purchase extra in-game gold, which can be used to unlock superheroes, missions or other items; or for around £8 a month, players can subscribe and become a Jr. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent.  Agents receive a monthly allowance of in-game Gold, access to exclusive heroes, and a Golden prize wheel where players can win extra gold.

There are two in-game currencies, gold and silver, as well as tickets which can be turned in for a chance to win currency or items.  Players can earn silver and tickets by exploring the game world and interacting with various objects, and by playing arcade games, card games and taking part in missions.

Players begin with a Squad comprising Cyclops, Falcon, Ms. Marvel and Thing.  I’d imagine most players have more well known heroes such as Spiderman or The Hulk in mind, but these need to be unlocked and this is where the costs can add up; Spiderman, Hulk, Wolverine and Iron Man cost between 600 or 900 gold each; the Silver Surfer costs 25000 silver, and while anyone can get him, this amount would take some time to save up.  A few superheroes are exclusive to subscribers, and it isn’t clear whether they would then disappear from your squad if you let your subscription lapse.

The game world itself is bright and colourful, in the same cartoon style as the characters and filled with lots of little interactive objects, as well as a few seasonal additions, such as the carol singers outside the Daily Bugle building, and the wrapped presents dotted about the map.  There are four different zones: Villainville, Daily Bugle, Baxter Plaza and Azgard, each with their own style of buildings and decorations.  In Villainville, I was surprised when investigating the factory, as I was transformed into a floating robot head for a short while!

Players can explore by running, jumping, flying or even swinging across the map, depending on which superhero they are using.. Spiderman was fun to explore with, though his voiced reaction on examining items, like with the other Heroes, was a little repetitive.

Zone - Asgard

The first of the game’s challenges is set when you first enter the game: go to the top of the Daily Bugle.  Other challenges include visiting the in-game shop, completing missions with other players, and leveling up your Squad; prizes include tickets, silver, gold or even new Heroes.  I think these are good for those who want a little structure, or just a suggestion of what to do next.

Personally, I prefer missions: there are currently 35 missions available to unlock, with a daily mission available to all.  Missions can be played alone or with up to three other Squads, and consist of 3d beat-em-up style fights.  Combat is simple; players click on enemies to perform melee or ranged attacks, depending on their Hero, with a devastating special attack available when the player has full Energy.

Hulk Combat

There are power-ups scattered through the map, as well as objects which can be thrown at enemies.. and depending on the mission, additional items to collect or avoid.  Each mission is split into three phases, with the final phase an arena-style fight against the Supervillain for that mission.  Even here, the mechanics are simple with the boss only using three or four special moves, announced by name beforehand so you can start running or position yourself out of reach of the attack.  I found the missions fairly fun and interesting, but they lacked any real challenge.  However, aimed at children, the difficulty is probably as it should be.

The Marvel Card Game pits you against the AI or another player, playing your cards off against theirs until one player loses all their cards to the discard pile.  When a card is played, the Hero named on the cards appears to perform their attacks, so it looks rather nice too.

Card - Goodnight Kiss - Rogue

As well as straightforward battles, quests are available too, with a brief story setting two characters up against each other for a card game.  Quests and cards can be bought in the shop, and cards can also be won via the Prize Wheel.

Mini-games can be found in the arcade, and include Mind Match, a memory matching game, Whack-a-Moloid, Base Invasion, and Night Patrol, a side-scrolling ninja chase over rooftops.  The top five scores per day are listed for each game too, for the competitive!

And then there’s the Prize Wheel, where players spend their tickets in hopes of earning gold, silver and other items.

Spin the Wheel

I don’t know how children might see this, but I can’t imagine I’d have ever enjoyed spinning the wheel over and over again, as I would have had to when I arrived with a number of tickets.  However, winning random stuff is always nice, and this would be one of few sources of gold for free players.

After receiving a few items for my Squad’s Headquarters, I decided to take a look.  The HQ starts off as just a Bridge, with other rooms needing to be unlocked first.  The Heroes in your Squad wander around the rooms, interacting with any items you’ve placed.. you can observe your Heroes or pick them up and put them somewhere in particular, though they may just wander away again!

Headquarters - Training Room

As the game is primarily aimed at kids, steps have been taken to protect them from inappropriate or offensive language, and to keep them from sharing personal information with others online.  I think this has been done rather well.

The fact that players generate and choose a randomised squad name for use in the game helps to keep children’s details private while also preventing anyone from choosing something offensive.  Younger players can interact safely with others using only menu chat: selecting options to communicate with other players, saying hello, inviting them to play a mission, and so on.  All the interactions I’ve had with other players in this game have been positive, unlike in other online games.

The game does feature a lot of violence, but it is all cartoon violence with flashes and stars rather than blood.. and the game is based on Marvel TV shows which show similar levels of violence anyway.

Even though Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is designed for a younger audience, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with it.  It’s cute and fun, and there’s a good range of content, though players should be aware that they’re either going to need to spend real money or save for a while to get the more popular heroes.

4/5

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