The DS’s unique form factor offers all sorts of opportunities for imaginative developers to create exciting and original videogames. There’s the two screens, so you can display the action on one and something else on the other, a touchscreen for a unique analogue control system and a built-in mic for good measure, all making possible games which could only be played on the DS.
Unfortunately, this also introduces a host of pitfalls to trip the unwary, with less imaginative designers using the NDS’ unique properties simply because they’re there, often to the detriment of the game in question. Iron Man certainly suffers in this respect, but also throws in some basic videogaming howlers which have nothing to do with the DS at all.
At heart, Iron Man is a bog-standard, blow-up-the-baddies affair in which you play the eponymous Marvel character. The film’s plot is thrown in too, of course, but it didn’t have to be. Just shoot the enemies – you don’t need to know why. Most of the action is in the air, making use of his suit’s flying abilities, but some levels are tackled on shank’s pony. Whether in the air or on foot, the action is viewed from behind the character in a third-person, 3D perspective.
Iron Man suffers from that most common of complaints in DS games, in that it uses the touchscreen because it’s there. You’re offered a radar picking out enemy positions, which is fair enough (but no map, which is a missed opportunity), but you also have to use the stylus to shoot. It means you can travel in one direction and fire in another, which is a boon, but this could’ve been achieved with the under-utilised face buttons. The controls as offered by the game are far from diabolical – you soon get used to them – but that’s no excuse for being less intuitive than they could’ve been.
There’s no excuse for having to fight enemies that aren’t even on the screen either, guessing their location from the trail of bullets they fire or locking on with homing missiles and blowing up baddies you can’t even see. Again, this isn’t game-destroying as the enemies are visible on the radar even if they’re off the screen, but it’s a little niggle that didn’t have to be there.
Far more serious is there’s nowhere near enough here to justify the asking price, with only eight missions in the main Story Mode, a tacked-on, throw-away arena mode and no multiplayer at all. You can complete it in an evening, with no incentive to go back and play again afterwards. Not great value for almost £30.
Yet Iron Man is not a disaster – far from it. Disposable, certainly, but not a disaster. It’s well presented, with neat graphics and cut scenes, offers a decent selection of weaponry which you upgrade between stages using ‘research points’ and its audio is fantastic, with atmospheric background choonz, meaty explosions and superb voice-over acting. Top marks for playing out the credits with Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ too. None of these qualities rescue it as a full-priced offering, of course. It will be a decent enough purchase in 18 months or so, when it’s in the bargain bins at £7.99, but by then, nobody will care.
It may be bog-standard and disposable, but Iron Man’s brain-off, button-down blasting action is fun while it lasts, even if Desert Strike did the fly-around-twatting-things shtick better 15 years ago. If it was a drink, Iron Man DS would be a glass of water served at room temperature. There’s nothing massively wrong with it and it’s satisfying if you’re thirsty, but nor is there much to commend it when a choice is available. Not a disaster, but very disposable. In other words, a typical early 21st-century movie licence.