Before he signed with WWE and became Sami Zayn, the pro wrestler Rami Sebei had a great gimmick called El Generico. He was supposed to be a generic luchador, a semi-spoof on a masked Mexican wrestler as he had all the trappings but none of the cultural underpinnings.
I bring that up because I feel similarly about Stan Lee’s Hero Command. The heroes in this superhero themed action-adventure game look like classic comic book characters, and they get a bit of extra pomp and circumstance thanks to some voiceover work by the godfather of Marvel Comics himself, Stan Lee. Alas, any resemblance to iconic heroes is only skin deep, and the gameplay tends to be even less inspired.
At least your first choice in Stan Lee’s Hero Command is a fun one, since you get to pick from the armored Captain Steamhammer, the psychic heroine Seer or the Nightwing-esque crime-fighting duo known as The Twins. All of them have their own stories, appropriately told through some fairly slick cutscenes made to look like comic book panels. Choose wisely here, as you’ll need premium currency to unlock the other playable characters.
After a few tutorial levels, you’ll get a map from which to tackle one of several available missions. There’s a decent variety of objectives, including simple battles to the end of a level, survival missions against waves of enemies, object-collecting quests and even playing bodyguard to Mr. Lee. Daily challenges are also available, and a meter tracks your overall progress toward fighting the area boss. Every good hero has an arch-villain, after all.
A wide variety of henchmen and low level baddies inevitably stands in the way of whatever you’re trying to accomplish, but while the combat is fast-paced and simple beat ’em up fare, it’s also quite frustrating. The thumbstick and large button for basic attacks work well enough, but the buttons for your hero’s powers are almost comically small — so much so that you’ll tap where you think the button is and simply fail to activate anything.
That wouldn’t be so bad if you had time to look for anything, but enemies can swarm and put a pretty good beating on you in a matter of seconds. These aren’t very durable superheroes, and while you can smash crates to recover health, you just feel a little too squishy at all times. Captaim Steamhammer looks like he’d be able to soak up quite a bit of punishment, but his armor must be made of paper mache.
Hero Command does try to help out by recommending upgrades to your stats and powers before you tackle certain levels. The problem is that they’re often prohibitively expensive, costing you more in Excelsiorbs (a play off of one of Lee’s signature catchphrases) than you’re likely to have just by completing missions. You can purchase Shields, the premium currency, or earn them through gameplay achievements, but you might want to spend some on Energy refills since you run out awfully fast.
On the off chance that none of this bothers you, the rest of the experience is pleasurable enough. The art style is inviting, and the hero designs are cool if not especially distinctive. The music might be my favorite part; it feels like what a superhero might listen to while fastening the cape and putting on the boots before going out on patrol. And the dialogue by Stan the Man is great too. I just wish there was more of it.
Lee’s glory days in the world of superheroes are far behind him, but it’s fun that he even lends his name and likeness to stuff like this. I just wish Stan Lee’s Hero Command captured a little more of the magic in the living legend’s mind, but he probably isn’t sweating the fact that it doesn’t make that much of an impression, so neither should you.