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Saving the World Together

Game On


Published November 8, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

Remember the Traveling Wilburys?

Even if you weren't a big fan of Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne on their own, put them into the same band and you find that you just have to stop, look and listen. Because everybody loves a supergroup.

No wonder we love the Justice League. Now we have a new JL game to let us live out our heroic fantasies.

Sure, there have been other superhero outfits. The X-Men formed a fraternity of mutants in exile, and the Fantastic Four were like a little superhero family. Only Marvel's Avengers have come close to touching the prestige of comicdom's No. 1 superhero group.

And that's because the Justice League has it all. Consider the core League complement:

- Superman: Goody-goody übermensch.

- Batman: Glowering dark detective.

- Wonder Woman: Twisted feminism in a bustier.

- Flash: Classic adolescent ADD.

- Green Lantern: Regular dude with cosmic powers.

- Martian Manhunter: Cosmic dude with an Earthly mission.

- Zatanna: Unless you are a comic nerd, you've never heard of this original team member. She represents woman as a magical mystery. See how well the league metaphor works?

"Justice League Heroes" has all these men and women in tights, and many others. Looking down into the dollhouse scenes, players pound their way through level after level of bad guys in an effort to thwart the evil Brainiac.

Under the hood, "Heroes"does not stray far from the developers' previous "Dungeons and Dragons"-inspired games. Solo or in teams, gamers wander through cities and intergalactic bases, picking up items and unleashing customizable attacks. Superman hovers over scenes, for example, while Zatanna zaps enemies into easily dispatchable bunnies and Flash zips around in a tornado of activity. The play doesn't amount to much more than a lot of button mashing and some genuinely funny dialogue. Then again, that's not a bad summary of the original comic's battles-and-banter format, either.

Unfortunately, with so many superpals at the player's disposal, the specter of game balance looms. On one hand, Superman ought to be able to crush as many rouge robot enemies as the game can throw out. But from the very beginning, Batman warns Supes that this particular menace might tax even his powers.

Rather than reveal the inherent imbalance in the comic-book universe, "Justice League Heroes" confirms an egalitarian ideal. Whether you're Green Lantern or Green Arrow, when the ultimate evil arrives, only a super grouping of abilities - from Superman's strength to Batman's ingenuity - can set the world right. "Justice League Heroes" reminds us that working together in groups is a super idea.

Who's It For: Pick-up-and-play simplicity and attractive, toy-like graphics will draw in anyone looking for a little mindless destruction in the name of saving the universe. If you know enough about comics to understand, say, Batman and Superman's ongoing rivalry, this game dishes plenty of comic-book-nerd surprises.

If You Like This, Try That: "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance" offers similar game play and style set in a Marvel world. Now you can swap your Superman cape for a Spidey outfit.

Best Part: Comic-book dialogue is always equal parts pompous and goofy. The professional actors who voice the lines in this game hit the right notes.