Thor: God of Thunder | Principal Platforms: Nintendo DS | Developer: WayForward Technologies | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Action | Year: 2011

God of thunder? This lacklustre cartridge can barely produce a spark!
Thor God of Thunder Nintendo DS PAL Box Art

Thor: God of Thunder

Reviewing old movie tie-ins isn’t something that I do very often, but Thor: God of Thunder for the Nintendo DS got me interested for a couple of reasons. Unbeknownst to me at the time of release, it was produced by WayForward Technologies; a developer that’s fairly well-known for making pretty 2D video games in a time when most licensed stuff was of an ugly 3D persuasion destined to age very poorly. Indeed, the version that competing platforms received was critically panned back in 2011, with the Nintendo DS version here faring somewhat better in comparison.

For one, the classic 2D visuals do a lot more justice to the popular characters that include Thor (naturally), Loki, the Warriors Three, and others who also appeared in the original movie. The hand-drawn portraits used during the story cutaways look authentic, though it’s important to note the game bears no connection to the excellent comic book of the same name. Neither is there any real connection to the film, with Chris Hemsworth’s likeness appearing on the box merely as a way to push sales and not to establish any meaningful connection with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This disassociation is troubling as without even an abbreviated plot to stick to, the game’s story emerges as one big, boring excuse for Thor to constantly beat up baddies until the credits roll. So far, so like a movie tie-in. Serves me right for thinking Sega would fare any better after their miserable turn with Iron Man, surely?

Well, Thor: God of Thunder does at least deliver some trashy thrills in the early levels. Building an entire combat system around his magical hammer, whilst incorporating fighting game concepts such as juggles and air combos is a good idea. Character upgrades arriving in the form of runes offer a pinch more depth, whereas Thor’s limited-use lightning power simply dazzles as it melts the screen like a smart bomb would do in Truxton or something.

And there is the occasional moment when lifting up a gigantic column or leaping the entire length of the screen does actually make you feel like the Marvel character in question. These bits may be hard to get tired of, but the same certainly can’t be said for the rest of the game.

The artwork and enemy design is mostly impressive throughout, although the artists quickly resort to palette-swapping and even then each stage feels practically identical in construction. A laughable attempt to incorporate platforming elements does little to help matters, and for all the difference the jumping around stuff makes, the stages would probably be less annoying if they were all made into a flat plain going left to right in a straight line. After the already simplistic early levels you would expect the developers to mix in different challenges and design considerations to keep things interesting, but aside from a few minor concessions, nothing does change.

Thor God of Thunder Nintendo DS Gameplay Screenshot

Thor’s power of flight never factors into the gameplay. Its relegation as a cutscene ‘teleport’ is just one example of how confined and limited the action feels.

Thor: God of Thunder is one of those incredibly short games that still feels like a slog because of its mind-numbing repetition. Also suspect is the difficulty curve, which fluctuates between insultingly easy to frustratingly hard as enemies learn to form up and fight using their paralysing attacks all at once. It’s a shame because the boss battles are much more imaginative in comparison. There are no notably special ones in there or anything, but they do show a little creative sparkle that acts as the last tangible bit of fun the game has left.

Otherwise, there just isn’t anything to get excited about here. There’s barely any touch integration; the dual screen design adds almost nothing outside of bosses; and the story is just another limp tale affording almost no respite from the tedium of battling enemies across whatever barren world is supposedly important to the plot at any given moment.

The bonus game modes are a token inclusion too, with the worthless survival mode not even saving your high scores! What we really needed was a simultaneous 2-player mode over Wi-Fi. Something energetic to at least add a little spice to the proceedings because as it is, there is no point in playing through of any of this again once you’ve spent the handful of hours needed to complete it once.

Again, it seems daft to dwell on a movie tie-in considering video gaming’s intolerable standards for those, but coming from WayForward Technologies, this is disappointing. Thor: God of Thunder isn’t quite standard issue for the genre, but it’s still nowhere close to being worthy of your time.