NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 06/23/2013
Superman: Shadow of Apokolips comes to us courtesy of publisher Atari and internal developer Infogrames Sheffield house, who were known as Gremlin Interactive prior to them coming under the Atari umbrella. The story follows the events of Countdown to Apokolips on the Game Boy Advance with Darkseid working to cripple Superman by providing advanced weapon from the planet to his enemies, in this case Lex Luthor. If you didn’t play CTA on GBA you won’t be lost in the story, as initially this game would arrive six months before that game. Superman basically sums up the story in a sentence with a Metropolis PD officer by discussing a previous case of Intergang having advanced alien weapons.
The thing that stands out most in SOA is the games visuals. The game looks absolutely stunning even by todays standards, and goes to show exactly how much colors can make a game look visually pleasing without having to make everything look hyper realistic. It captures the look of the 2-D animated show in 3-D perfectly, and it helps that they brought back cast members like Tim Daly, Clancy Brown and Dana Delany to reprise their roles as Superman/Clark Kent, Lex Luthor and Lois Lane respectively. This game stands right next to The Adventures of Batman and Robin on the SNES as an excellent experience of playing an episode of the show in an interactive form.
Levels in the game range from open areas in Metropolis, or at a dam and internal stages like Lexcorp. The majority of the objectives boil down to go here, remove enemies from the map then go on, but the developer also throws in some Superman like tasks to keep things interesting. In the dam level you’ll have to save civilians and transport them to a safe facility. You can do this by carrying them, or you can rip down billboards to create a bridge and let them do it themselves. This is followed by a section where you’ll have to stop the dam from flooding and stop a rogue gondola holding Lois from falling.
You’ll even get a chance to play as Clark Kent in one level where the objective is to sneak into Lexcorp without being seen. I’ll admit, it’s not the best level but I appreciate the variety and having to use your super powers without being spotted. Thankfully the game has plenty of mid-level checkpoints (unlike Atari’s other Superman game the Man of Steel) but be prepared to sit through some long load times should you fail.
Shadow of Apokolips is indeed a solid game and probably the best Superman game on the market to date, but it is unfortunately plagued by a few problems that sour the experience. Firstly Superman has poor “feel”, you don’t have the right feedback of the power of his punches nor the sensation of flying fast. It suffers from camera problems as well with the right analog stick being used for strafe controls as opposed to camera manipulation. The only way to view the environment is by going into first-person mode by holding L2 and this isn’t much help in some of the more frustrating timed missions that pop up, like having to quickly move four large items through an obstacle course without getting them hit in the later levels.
The game also does a poor job of communicating to the player what power to use in certain areas. For example in one area you have to activate a fan on the ground and logic would dictate with the abilities available to you that you would use your super spin (standing on the ground and pressing x and square together) to do so. In actuality you have to slam down on the fans to get them going (same buttons only from a hovering position). The only instruction the game provides to the player is “activate the fan”. Shadow of Apokolips also isn’t a terribly long game either, and can be finished in a matter of hours with little replay value other than locating some “S” shields scattered in the levels.
Superman: Shadow of the Apokolips is still a good game, but a very flawed experience as well. I would’ve loved to see a sequel from the same team with some of the wrinkles ironed out, but alas it would never come. The story even leaves itself open for a continuation as you never face or confront Darksied. I’m not sure if this was a case due of poor sales of the game, or if Atari never renewed the license with Warner Bros. Irregardless, Shadow of Apokolips comes recommended to fans of either Superman or DC’s animated series. You can also pick up this game on the Nintendo Gamecube.