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Why do we still remember animated supervillain comedy Megamind a decade later? The movie opens with a tragic yet hilarious montage that endears us to the blue outcast. Then we meet reporter Roxanne Ritchi, who’s tired of superhero clichés but still believes in the hope heroes provide. Finally, the movie reveals a chillingly real kind of evil in entitled, chauvinistic Hal “Tighten” Stewart. Nobody could expect the video game adaptations to encapsulate everything great about the movie, but with a new series about Megamind learning how to be a hero coming out soon, is there anything it can learn from the sequels that came before?
The three games have a few quirks in common. Only Jonah Hill returns to voice Hal, and he takes it seriously, but the substitute cast does a decent job as well. Each game involves a group of antagonist called the Doom Syndicate, comprising high concept villains wisely cut from early drafts of the movie for distracting focus, such as Destruction Worker, Psycho Delic, and Hot Flash.
THQ Australia’s Megamind: Ultimate Showdown on the Xbox 360 opens with a cutscene revealing that the Doom Syndicate has stolen the “mega essence” of Megamind’s DNA... even though the movie implies he has no supernatural powers. The cutscene apparently uses the same character models from the movie, even though the animation from the game’s smaller team isn’t quite as good. One of the strongest elements of this iteration is that, since the film and the game came out when they did, Megamind ends up looking a lot like he does in the movie even during gameplay. Characters’ lips don’t move during dialogue, however, something the game gives up on hiding near the end.
Ultimate Showdown struggles with potentially the show’s biggest challenge: what makes this not just another superhero story? Megamind comments on the “madness” of Demolition Worker’s evil plans, but what if he were a little impressed with his villainy as well? The only times Megamind feels like a recovering bad guy are during minigames: civilians cower in fear of his hoverbike during a racing challenge, and a Saints Row-esque rampage puts you in control of the movie’s striking mech suit.
At least Megamind’s various weapons feel appropriately like evil inventions, including a shrink ray that pays homage to the movie’s memorable dehydration gun. Unfortunately, both melee and ranged attacks are linked to the X button. You can’t upgrade melee attacks like you can with weapons, so you end up arbitrarily running away from enemies to take advantage of your arsenal and speed up the often monotonous combat. You can use your inventions on environmental objects, though; a nice touch that makes them more than just perfunctory gameplay devices.
The next game I played was Tantalus Media’s Megamind: The Blue Defender on Nintendo DS. Melee and ranged attacks are mercifully ascribed to different buttons here, and Megamind has a ground pound style aerial attack that would have been useful against the Xbox’s swaths of enemies. Also unlike the Xbox version, you can strategise with Megamind’s weapons by switching between them whenever you want. These include the electric lasso, which can also swing across gaps. Blue Defender has one of those swinging mechanics that lets you control Megamind’s momentum, even swinging unnecessarily in a complete circle around the hook if you want. None of that pre-animated swinging here.
The handheld game has a few other ambitious touches: climbing construction platforms downtown reveals busy streets below, and one especially detailed waterfront level lets you detour through a stationed cruise ship complete with potted plants and framed paintings. The fight against Psycho Delic takes advantage of its disco backdrop more than the Xbox version, turning the dancefloor into a deadly game of Snake. Unfortunately, the colours are so subdued compared to its PSP equivalent that it’s hard to imagine a kid playing this on a long car journey in 2010. What would have really broken up the queasy repetitiveness is the option to switch between all three villains’ sets of levels until the finale.
THQ Australia also released a Wii exclusive multiplayer party game. All I knew about Megamind: Mega Team Unite was that Hal was a playable character, which convinced me it had to have a different story from the other games, but I sighed when Roxanne once again introduced the Doom Syndicate. Instead of stealing Megamind’s DNA, however, this Doom Syndicate is wreaking havoc throughout the city. Truly, this is the multiverse of Megamind: the TV show creators shouldn’t worry too much about retconning the games when they already retcon themselves.
Megamind assembles a Mega Squad of characters from the movie, and Roxanne narrates the proceedings with a fairly clever news report framing device that replaces Minion’s constant communications from the Xbox game. I didn’t mind that the gags weren’t always as funny as the movie, or that the story potentially undermined Metro Man’s arc by making his survival public knowledge, because their inclusion made me realise the importance of Megamind’s supporting cast to telling a good Megamind story.
Half the levels have your squad competing against itself, and it’s pretty funny to see the ostensible heroes undermine each other to see who can retrieve the most stolen money. It soon becomes points-effective to just prevent your teammates from being heroic so you can maintain the high score. Members of the Doom Syndicate join the Mega Squad upon being defeated, a simple way of acknowledging the redemptive themes of the movie. Fighting, recruiting, and playing as the Syndicate was the first time I really enjoyed these characters.
Ultimate Showdown captures the look and style of the movie, but suffers from repetitiveness. Blue Defender is an ambitious but straightforward platformer with surprisingly developed combat. Mega Team Unite is a decent party game which broadly captures more of the movie’s personality than the others. The TV show’s producers could learn from these games that Megamind’s villainous history can make him a unique hero, and that his supporting cast is at least as important to the story as the humble genius himself.
Featured Image Credit: THQ Studio Australia, Dreamworks
Topics: TV And Film
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