Genre: Beat-‘Em-up Developer: Data East Publisher: Data East Players: 2 Released: 1992
Assemble? Yes, assemble!
Despite, or perhaps because of their unmistakable, alliterative battle cry, Captain America and the Avengers never managed to sweep into the modern consciousness in the same way that X-Men, Spiderman and even the Hulk escaped from the printed page to the big money world of motion picture. Poor, poor Captain America and his unabashed enthusiasm for guarding everything that’s decent about the good old US of A. While the ever relevant themes of persecution and alienation tossed around in X-Men and Spider-Man make them ready made 21st Century blockbusters, Captain America’s flag-wearing, shield-hurling antics could never catapult him to the same level. Until some crazy director decides to reinvent the character, he and his Avengers are forever trapped on a level of campy kitsch occupied by the likes of Adam West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin.
It’s an image that isn’t helped by games such as this. Captain America and the Avengers is an identikit Mega Drive beat-’em-up with lots of repetition, absurdity, and primary colors. Everything’s bright, bold and, unlike the ’60s version of Batman, very, very monotonous.
Assembled here for the good of the world (well, the USA anyway) are Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Vision. Before you get too excited at the prospect of commanding Vision and using his, well, whatever attack he possess (who the hell is Vision?!), consider this: all of the Avengers fight using a limited, bland repertoire of moves that consists of a punch and some flying attacks. The only real variation between them being their projectile attack and that is only because everyone can’t use Captain America’s shield.
Captain America and the Avengers isn’t big on diversity, filling its stages with cookie-cutter thugs and ugly creatures that display little in the way of imagination. Right from the start things just aren’t any fun. The game drops you in an uninspired environment and sends you through several gangs of oh so generic thugs while you repeatedly execute Captain America’s shield throwing attack over and over and over until you just don’t care what the Red Skull does. There’s an air of inevitability about everything in this game. You know it is never going to become exciting and you know that the game can’t wait to remove your control of Captain America and march you through the next laughably-scripted boss staredown.
This first occurs mid-way through the opening level. You’re forced towards an open space before Whirlwind inexplicably comes out of a building and just walks off… er, okay. Then two thugs come out for a supremely easy mid-level fight, though not before striking fear into the very heart of Captain America by uttering these fearsome words:
“DO NOT DISTURB US ! ”
Captain America isn’t going to be outdone by this display of inanity and slanting exclamation marks, though! His response:
“WHY SHOULD IT GO WELL ! ”
Yeah, criminals, why should it go well! Wait… what?
Neither Captain America nor his enemies seem able to articulate their thoughts with any coherence, blurting out some dazzling, bemusing, and downright stupid exchanges of dialogue. “Obey me or die!” exclaims Juggernaut as he darts uncharacteristically fast across the screen. “Where’s the laser?” questions Cap before the enemy bizarrely responds with the line, “Ask the police!” Ask the police?! Even the Submariner gets in on it with his cameo, observing that “they’re in the sea!” “Thank you, Submariner!”
The appearance of the Submariner means more than this, though. He’s not just in it for a corny line of dialogue, he’s here to introduce the less than seamless transition into one of the game’s rare attempts at variation: horizontal shooter stages. You see, it just wasn’t enough for Data East to fail at one genre, they had to show they were hopeless at two. These shooter segments are easy and pointless, doing nothing to challenge except for throwing a few senseless flying enemies in your path before a space ship comes into view and fires missiles at itself. Yes, really! They’re too fat to get around the space ship when you’re positioned below it so they just crash into it before the whole mess is ended when the craft flickers for a few second then gradually vanishes. It’s not what I would call impressive.
This is a lucky escape, though. The eventual boss of this stage is a huge Sentinel who stands on one side of the screen waiting to be hit before he attacks you with a cheap multi-directional laser attack. This is hard to dodge because of the confined space and the size of your fat gliding vehicle thing. It’s an encounter that’s much like many of the game’s bosses, favoring cheap attacks that are the only way the characters can put a dent in your health, which counts down from 100 like in Gunstar Heroes. But don’t be fooled, Captain America and the Avengers is nothing like Gunstar Heroes, possessing a style of presentation that couldn’t be further from Treasure’s colorful universe. Instead the whole awful adventure is characterized by poor, amusing animation and empty, bland backgrounds supported by music that takes the superhero theme to a frustrating degree. It’s not heroic; it’s just annoying, like the entire game.
Data East’s abysmal superhero cash-in is one of those titles where the worthlessness of the adventure is established from the very first level. It’s a mess of boredom, stupidity and hilarity that encapsulates Captain America and the Avengers, marching you through waves of dull attackers so you can fight Whirlwind. “You can’t escape!” exclaims Captain America before this battle, to which Whirlwind senselessly responds: “You will be the one escaping!” But the only one wanting to escape this rubbish will be you.
SCORE: 2 out of 10