"Powering Up Heroes"
PowerUp Heroes by Ubisoft is a fighting game for Xbox 360. Powered by Kinect, players equip different suits and brawl with other combatants through gesture-based gameplay. Featuring a solid premise, PowerUp Heroes basic gameplay is fun, but the ways to actually play are limited.
The gameplay of PowerUp Heroes is pretty straight forward. Players choose an opponent (online play is also possible), two suits, a power-up (a perk), and then go into battle. There are basic actions available to players, such as motioning the left hand to shoot a projectile, moving the upper body to the left and right to avoid attacks, and lifting their left leg to prompt up close combat. While in up-close combat, the camera closes in on the combatants, and players are locked into a series of five actions, allowing each player a fair chance regardless of whom started it.
In addition to the basic actions available, each suit has its own unique gestures that prompt special attacks available to that suit. Equipping the Scorcher suit and jumping up will start a tremor attack that will shoot out at the opponent, while lifting your right hand with another suit will stun the opponent with an electrical whip. The game even implements combos for those fast enough. Doing two consecutive special attacks from the same suit will do increased damage, and switching suits in the middle of a combo will cause even higher damage. Finally, when a player is damaged enough, they go into a rage mode and all attacks become stronger.
As exciting as all of these features sound, PowerUp Heroes requires a lot of experimentation because there's no tutorial. The two modes available, 1 Player and Xbox LIVE Battle, don't leave a lot of room to play around and get acquainted with the gestures required to play and their nuances. Actions that look like they would be recognized with depth are actually only recognized flat. While playing the game I lost a lot of the up-close combat moments because the gesture looked like it would recognize me putting my arm in front of me. Instead, the game required me to hold my arm directly to my left or right. In the heat of battle, this is frustrating. Other actions seem to activate randomly, such as the final blow in an up-close moment. Often times, I would have to uppercut three times quickly to trigger the final blow.
The PowerUp Heroes single player mode is the main way of getting more suits, and although you're given the choice of which order to fight opponents in, the mode feels very linear. Tasked with preventing the alien Malignance from taking over the world, the story is barely there. After a brief introduction, the player sees their character take a power suit and then is thrust in a battle with no tutorial. As players go through battles, the difficulty ramps up quite a bit, and there's a distinct point at which it rises: the player beats Malignance the first time and then must fight all the previous opponents again, only stronger (i.e. cheap). The power-ups (perks) in the game also unlock through this mode, and the rate at which they unlock is what really makes the game feel linear: rank 2 unlocks after getting 1000 points, but rank 3 unlocks after 7000 points have been gained... and points are gained very slowly. Also of note is Ubisoft's U-play system enabled for this title for exclusive unlocks. U-play is an achievement-like system in all of Ubisoft's games that allow players to use points gained for actions in game. The U-play system is needed to unlock the last perk, which makes the opponent's health drain at the beginning of a battle. It was a total relief to be able to access this power early on in the game.
PowerUp Heroes' graphics look pretty nice for what it is, and it gets the job done. Any problem with the graphics could be boiled down to the game's visuals clashing with the aesthetics of the Xbox Avatars used for the player characters. To fix this, players can choose to wear a helmet to complete the outfit chosen. I preferred to see my avatar's Santa Claus hat in battle so I opted not to. The suits and attacks also have their own unique effects, such as the rabbid suit summoning rabbids to attack the opponent. The sound is kind of just there, and there are very few vocals, aside from the narrator and the announcer.
Overall, PowerUp Heroes is a title with good intentions, and it's a great launch pad for a new series, but it needs some more personality, refined mechanics, and more modes before it can become one of the great Kinect games.
GameDynamo's Score for PowerUp Heroes (X360)
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