- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2007

Superhero and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. Around the world, youngsters and guys who can’t get dates spend countless hours in front of their computers and video-game systems.

With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and Silicon Valley with a look at some …

Comics plugged in

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (TAKE-TWO INTERACTIVE FOR XBOX 360, RATED E +10, $39.99)

Marvel’s elder superhero family has a new movie and a video game partly based on Twentieth20th Century Fox’s efforts. As many as four players can now cooperatively save the world in this third-person adventure that pits legendary comic book villains from the team’s history against the Fantastic Four’s cinema counterparts.

What’s the story? From the instruction booklet: “The Fantastic Four meets their greatest challenge yet as the enigmatic, intergalactic herald, The Silver Surfer, comes to earth to prepare it for destruction. As the Silver Surfer races around the globe wreaking havoc, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben must unravel the mystery of the Silver Surfer and confront the surprising return of their mortal enemy, Dr. Doom, before all hope is lost.”

Characters’ character: The good news is that the game is cooperative and that all the heroes have their signature powers.

That means Sue Storm becomes invisible, Reed Richards stretches, the rocky Ben Grimm (aka the Thing) is superpowerful, and Johnny Storm bursts into flames.

Each hero’s basic attacks are of the martial-arts variety (kicks and punches), but each also can tap into his cosmic energy during battles to find superpowers, such as Sue’s force shield and Reed’s extended-periscope punch.

Johnny’s effects are really fun to watch as, while on fire, he can fly, shoot flame balls and turn into a blowtorch to attack enemies.

Additionally, players can press buttons on each of their controllers at the same time and have the team members react together to perform a battle move in a visually spectacular fashion.

As the team’s missions are played out in the streets of New York, in an underground military bunker, in Shanghai and in outer space, they will encounter the classic archenemies Super Skrull, Terrax and Red Ghost, and ultimately face off against Dr. Doom.

Heroes usually work together, but some added individual missions (Johnny trying to follow the Silver Surfer in a New York tunnel to just name one) slightly spice up the action.

The bad news is that the game’s look is just average compared to similar titles, the film cast did not participate in the voiceovers, the design is very lazy (the Thing can lift a car and pound it into foes, but it never is destroyed) and the players never control the Silver Surfer or face off against Galactus.

A small saving grace to the game’s mediocrity is the ability to unlock collections of comic book covers from the Fantastic Four’s 46-year history enhanced with a zoom feature to appreciate the slick artwork.

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