It’s glaringly obvious to everyone who’s ever met me that if something has a Marvel Comics label on it, I’ll probably buy it. Even after the recent Amazing Spider-Man – One More Day debacle, I still read Marvel comics – I’ve just moved onto Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane and Amazing Spider-Girl, instead. So when Operation: Spider-Man turned out to be huge amounts of fun, I couldn’t resist getting Marvel Heroes Guess Who, too.
And it’s pretty cool. It’s the same basic game as Guess Who – you have two players, each with a game board featuring a set of faces. You pick a card, and then by asking a series of questions, you try to guess what card the other player is holding, while simultaneously trying to stop them figuring out which card you’ve got. In the original game, the faces are just of random normal-looking people, and you ask questions based on their gender, facial hair, eye colour, and whether or not they wear glasses. In the Marvel version, the faces are all of well-known Marvel characters. You’ve got Captain America, Thor, Cyclops, Dr Octopus, Mr Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, the Thing, Daredevil, Bullseye, Beast, the Hulk, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Dr Doom, Nightcrawler, Rogue, the Lizard, Juggernaut, Venom, Storm, the Green Goblin, and Iron Man. Because they’re all characters you probably know something about (or at least most of them will be) you can ask more interesting questions than the usual “Does he have brown hair?” style ones. “Has he or she ever lived in the Baxter Building?” was one of our geekier questions, while “Does he have a mostly blue head?” was one of the, er, simpler ones.
As adults, playing the game with only one card apiece is a little too quick and easy; fun to begin with, but the game quickly lost its charm. So we switched to playing with two cards each, which made things a bit more interesting. “Is one or more of your characters a villain?” might not get you far if the answer is “yes”, since you can’t flip down any pieces, but if you also know one of the characters has at one time been a member of the Fantastic Four, and that at least one of them is predominantly blue-coloured, you can pretty much flip over everyone but Bullseye, Mr Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing. (And maybe Storm, depending on which definition of the Fantastic Four you’re working to.) The selection of characters is generally good, including some more obscure people, but a major problem with it is that there are only four women. When I played it, a new rule was introduced that you couldn’t ask what gender the other person’s character was, since if you’ve drawn She-Hulk you really won’t last long. (“Is it a woman?” “Yes.” “Is she green?”)
Non-Marvel geeks can still play along quite easily, using facial characteristics rather than obscure comic-book facts, but obviously the geekier you are, the more fun it is, because it means you can come up with some more bizarre questions. Aside from wanting there to be more female characters, I’d’ve liked to have seen Ghost Rider included (there are four characters who are predominantly green and four who are predominantly blue, but there is only one character who is on fire, and that seems unfair) and really, surely Mary Jane is more deserving of a spot on the board than the Lizard or bloody Thor, but since this is a children’s game which has kept me entertained for countless hours, it seems almost churlish to complain too much.
Except there really aren’t enough women characters.