Super Hero Squad is the Amazing Society's take on Marvel's Super Hero Squad cartoon series by the same name. Published by Gazillion Entertainment, it is the latest game in the growing kids' MMO market, but just like how the original Super Hero Squad kids toys by Hasbro was quickly loved by adult collectors, big kids will find this game engaging as well. Designed for kids six on up, it can be played entirely by mouse clicks or a combination of keyboard WASD for movement and mouse for targeting and combat.
Super Hero Squad has been in open beta for a while, and at E3, they were showing off their soon to be launched in-game trading card game (launched at time of publish - Ed.), new heroes to come and their latest city, Asgard which was released to coincide with the movie Thor. There are three "cities" kids can play in right now, the Daily Bugle, Baxterville and Asgard, with Villainville coming in August. One of the goals of the game is to collect as many heroes as you can. You start off with a few and the others are earned, unlocked with in-game cash or with micro-transaction currency. A new character is released every week, a new boss mission every month, and a new city every quarter, with more than one version of a character as well as characters carrying items that reflect on the storyline progress of the cartoon series.
The game plays very much like a console game with boosts and heals - which are items like strawberries, bananas and hero-sandwiches (pun intended) dropping as the mission progresses and as players defeat evil henchmen, robots and boss villains. The care in the design of the hero characters as well as the bosses are meticulous and really fun as each character has their own signature emote as well as signature Hero-Up power move (powered up when all the stars fill from normal combat) and the same goes for the villains who all have their own signature power animations. Deadpool, for example, breaks the 4th wall by grabbing the combat UI on the upper left and throws the stars from it when his Hero-Up power is activated. The trading card game is currently in-game only, and the first reveal was at PAX Prime in 2010. They've been working on balance and art work since and there is a fabulous set of tools for the card game, for sorting, organization and deck building; from random decks, to decks of certain powers. There are card missions as well which earn players special cards. The hint dropped by Studio head Jason Robar was to note whose mission it was. If it was Ironman's for example, you might want to stack your deck with technology blocking cards.
Super Hero Squad doesn't bill itself as a free to play game; instead it says that they have three different game components. The free game, the subscription game and the microtransaction game. They recognize that they have many free players and there are missions and characters that can be unlocked by earning silver which is the in-game cash. Players get a daily spin on a wheel that can win them silver, food, as well as a 1 in 25 chance on a bit of gold (the micro-transaction currency), and missions earn players XP, silver and tickets. These tickets are used to get additional spins on the wheel, so kids playing the free game can actually unlock some gold only missions, characters as well as card game booster. packs. However, some items are silver only to give kids a challenge. When the Silver Surfer went into the game, many in the studio were afraid that at 25,000 silver he was too expensive for, yet there were three of them running around the game within the week. That's a lot of missions played, and played well, as the better you do in the missions, the better the rewards. To further define the three game components, there are also some characters and missions that are subscriber only. One other way to obtain characters is via a code printed on specially marked boxes of Hasbro Super Hero Squad collectibles. These heroes do eventually turn up to be unlocked via in-game methods, a few months after they are first released.
As a game developed for kids, players will find plenty of interesting emotes including fart and burp (seriously). Body gags just tickle kids... and plenty of adults. Also, players will find things in game that can be clicked on. Candy machines in each zone that give rewards of silver, hidden hero tokens for each character that give XP, and just interesting things like man-hole covers that pop up, park benches that you can sit on, and a puppet show in Asgard. Characters that have flight ability (and you start off with two of them) will see glowing hotspots and these take you on a short tour of the zone, dropping you off at a place with or without another hotspot to take you another route. If you find yourself spotless, simply step off the building. This is a kids' game, you don't take any falling damage. If you spot a bank robber in the game, chase him down and you'll get a reward. He's easy to spot. He wears a mask and holds a bag of loot in one hand. Super Hero Squad is so well designed for kids that you can let your six year old do the tutorial by him or herself as it has text as well as voice-over and allow re-dos if they don't understand one part or another. Missions can be played solo, with friends (or kids), and the daily mission, with random players. The game is browser based and playable both on the PC and Mac, but encourages you to download the game files so everything loads much faster. I can already tell you that my eight year old nephew woops me completely at this game. He plays it a lot more than I do and confidently takes me through missions telling me what to expect. "Don't stand there, Auntie! More robots will come!"