Thor for Wii lacks the high-definition visuals of its Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 counterparts and the old school, 2D brawler approach of WayForward's Nintendo DS version. It's also based on a movie license. You might assume the game is doomed to failure, but that's not necessarily the case. Though plagued by visual presentation issues and limiting gameplay, Thor on Wii still manages to play passably well.
The story here is so basic and so similar to the other Thor releases it almost doesn't matter. Loki dupes Thor into attacking other planets. Bad things happen as a result of Thor's arrogance. You go smash things endlessly until something tells you to stop. What does matter, however, are the game's fighting mechanics.
Developer Red Fly Studios has designed a combat system that is both fast and furious. Pressing A repeatedly executes most basic attacks, and leaning the control stick can redirect Thor's offense immediately. The system is intuitive, and is reinforced by basic combos, waggle controls for powerful attacks, and the ability to summon lighting. Truth be told, it's a blast to be able to fight mobs of enemies and stand a chance. Without the instant-redirect, combat in Thor would prove to be incredibly frustrating. Most of the moves seem to be a bit superfluous, however, as your standard light and heavy attacks take care of most of your enemies. The result? You're more or less just mashing the A button while running down halls. More on that in a second.
What helps Thor's seemingly basic combat system along is a forgiving hit counter that climbs as you engage your foes. As this counter increases, bigger and more powerful moves are opened, including some that can clear a screen. The system acknowledges that players might miss, and it will even remain active if you temporarily stop fighting. The result? You often feel like you're playing as the God of Thunder, not some generic, mortal hero.
When I said you're running down halls, I meant it. Much of Thor's gameplay consists of running into an arena, getting blocked in, and brawling a seemingly endless number of enemies until some door or shield opens up. Run to the next room, repeat. The flexible and fast-paced nature of combat keeps levels moving along at a reasonable clip, but level design is so basic and so generic that after a while you'll wonder why you're bothering. Flight-based levels are thrown into the mix here and there, temporarily switching the game into an on-rails shooter. Yet again, though, you're simply moving Thor around the screen, progressing down a "hallway" and hitting the A button as fast as you can.
Fortunately, boss fights can be a breath of fresh air. Often larger than life, these villains mix up gameplay greatly, and are frequently far, far better than the vast majority of the game. These encounters keep getting better, and the final couple bosses are truly excellent.
Thor will earn experience points through combat, which accumulate to give you tokens. Said tokens can then be redeemed for upgrades. Players will be able to upgrade basic stats like health or Odin Force (read: magic points), as well as unlock new moves or the ability to equip runes. A limited amount of exploration in levels will also uncover special tokens that open up new costumes and concept art. The amount of customization and unlockable content is certainly admirable. While adding more moves to Thor's repertoire seemed a bit useless to me, extra health and Odin Force was welcome. Likewise, the extra costumes, based off of classic comic book designs, were a treat to a comic book fan like me.
Red Fly opted for a unique visual treatment, with a more animated, almost cel-shaded characteristic to the environments and characters. With Wii's horsepower limitations, this was a wise choice. At least it would have been if the game could maintain a reasonable frame rate. Almost immediately, and without much happening on the screen, Thor stutters. Major combat sequences and in-game cutscenes become rather cringe-worthy as relatively simple graphics bring the game to a crawl. Given that the graphics are simple and streamlined, this is almost unforgiveable. The stylistic choice to avoid a complex presentation would work if the game functioned properly. Awkward animations, hit detection, and graphical glitches plague the game throughout its life. In a sense, I felt like I was playing a game that was a few weeks away from completion. It seems as though the developers simply ran out of time.