By Marc Strom
The Squaddies assemble for their next video game adventure on November 16 with "Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet" from THQ.
Spinning out of the story from the second season of "Super Hero Squad Show," the team must stop a power-mad Thanos from collecting all of the Infinity Stones...and, much like the show, adventure, danger and hilarity will ensue.
Jason Gholston, the game's producer from Griptonite Games, helped make this adventure a reality with his involvement from its very beginnings. Marvel.com had a chance to speak with him about the process of putting "Marvel Super Heroes: The Infinity Gauntlet" together and what makes it such a unique gaming experience for Marvel fans of all ages.
And be sure to check back with Marvel.com for even more news and interviews in the coming weeks and months before "Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet" becomes available for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 on November 16!
Marvel.com: I know that this game is less a sequel to the first one than an expansion on the storyline from the second season of the show, so how did you guys work with the Super Hero Squad writers to adapt that story into your game?
Jason Gholston: We worked with writer Mark Hoffmeir, [who's] written a number of episodes for season one and season two as well. He's an expert as far as what's going on with the show as well as the Marvel Universe in general.
We worked very closely with him right from the get-go. He was at the kickoff meetings with Marvel and he was integrated into the process right from the start. We collaborated very closely, our group and him, to make sure that the story helped reflect what was going on in season two but also served gameplay. We were [looking to] set up funny, dramatic and just really interesting situations for the player that fit into the narrative, and he helped us to craft that.
Marvel.com: How would you compare the gameplay of "Infinity Gauntlet" to that of the first Super Hero Squad game?
Jason Gholston: They do share some things in common, obviously. The Super Hero Squad's going to beat up bad guys and fight injustices across the galaxy. [But] we have a deep combat system that's made to be more accessible this time around, so that you can do the really killer, big combo moves and things like that in a much easier way than the previous game. We build on top of that foundation by adding lots of tricky puzzle elements that call into play each of the heroes' special abilities where each hero has a power factor. So Iron Man is tech factor, Hulk is strength factor, Wolverine is animal factor. In one puzzle you may need to use Hulk to heave a huge block out of the way that then exposes some wires and a nest of vines that only Wolverine's claws can slice.
And then we had, working with Mark, created a story that we can tell during gameplay. It's not just at the beginnings of levels and then you play the game and [then] you're back in story mode. We have intro and outro story stuff, but we also have it woven right into the action of the levels themselves.
Marvel.com: Touching on those puzzle elements you were just talking about, what do you think are some of the advantages of mixing them with straight combat gaming, and what interested you in taking that tack with this game?
Jason Gholston: I think it's pretty safe to say that gamers want variety in their games. You want those dynamics of pacing--fast parts, slow parts, quiet parts, loud parts. Giving almost equal service to puzzle mechanics and combat-centric gameplay and distributing them throughout the game allowed us to create a much more dynamic experience. So the player will drop into a big brawl, clean that up and is then presented with a puzzle situation where they then have to learn how to use a particular hero's powers to get into the next portion of the mission that they're on.
Using the puzzle and combat [modes] to create a more dynamic experience is what really motivated us, but furthermore, to create even more variety we have levels of the game where you're doing free fall base jumps that are almost like flight simulator situations, dodging obstacles in the air and things like that where you're flying. We also have shooting gallery elements.
Those mechanics as well as the puzzle and combat mechanics all work really well with co-op play. We have some areas where one person on your co-op team is dealing with some puzzle type game play while another character is holding off bad guys while they try to hack a computer. And Squad, if you watch the show, it's funny, it [has] action, there's even some drama in there some times. It has its ups and downs dramatically, and we wanted to create that same experience in the game. And one of the way we create those dynamics is through a variety of gameplay mechanics.
Marvel.com: Would you say that variety of gameplay one of the main things that allowed you to do things like advance the story within the levels?
Jason Gholston: Absolutely. We have some sections where you solve the puzzle and there's a big reveal and the story moves along. You feel like you're fighting fighting fighting, and now something else happens. Now [you've] got to figure out a puzzle, and in solving that puzzle we move the story forward. Some new piece of information is revealed.
Marvel.com: How do you feel Marvel fans of all ages can enjoy the game?
Jason Gholston: As a co-op game, this game is built for that from the ground up. It really touches on a lot of different styles of humor. It's not all just fart jokes, although there is a very climactic fart joke built into the game that I think only Super Hero Squad could allow. [laughs] If you watch the show you can see, there's some episodes where they do some pretty crazy stuff that only the adults are going to get, and we have stuff like that.
There's some depths in the controls and in the puzzles that will satisfy the gamers who are used to a little more demanding game, but it's fun. It's easy enough to pick up and play that a younger fan will be able to hop right in, but their older brother who's been playing some hardcore games is going to find something there they like, too.
Marvel.com: In terms of the characters you'll be using for this game, are you looking to bring back a number of the characters from the first one, and will you be adding any additional ones?
Jason Gholston: We definitely have some cameos that will be revealed over the next couple of weeks and days. Some really cool guys are coming in, some more obscure characters that fans are going to like. But the go-to guys are there. You've got Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine and Thor. And in our game Thor can throw his hammer. I've learned working on this project that Thor doesn't usually throw his hammer in video games, so we're happy to bring hammer throwing into the mix.
[For] villains, we have Loki, Thanos, Dr. Doom and their various lieutenants that help them on their evil deeds. It's a huge cast, we're talking something in the order of over 35 unique characters. It really touches on a lot of the most popular parts of the Marvel Universe, that's for sure.
Marvel.com: What aspect of the game are you most excited for people to see when it finally comes out?
Jason Gholston: The co-op experience is really fun. You can hear the testers laughing as they play together. It was designed from the beginning to be a top-notch co-op game. The story is funny and it's well told. It's ultimately a tale of redemption as only Squad can do it. [laughs] We are particularly proud of that, and that's definitely from that collaboration between us and Mark and the guys over at the show. The voice cast is amazing. We have all the key members of the TV show plus some of the guest celebrity stars, there's so many things. It really feels like you're playing the show, [only it's] a slightly alternate version of season two.
One other thing I wanted to mention, and that's the challenge modes. We also have a four-player challenge mode where you can play survival challenges, beat'em up races, hacking computer races. We have a special little racing game where you race these little go-cart robots, the Starkamatics. It's got a bunch of modes and a lot of maps--I believe there are 33 maps, [and] over 30 various challenges to unlock and play as you progress through the story game, and those all support four-player. There's a lot of game here, and we really think that kids, when they've finished up the story and gone to all the secret areas, are going to want to keep playing those challenge maps and see if they can beat their high scores. For instance on XBox and the PS3 it supports online leader boards, so you can see how your friends did on the same challenges.
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