The action isn't all bad, but it isn't good either. At its simplest, the button mashing, superpower-infused mayhem has a basic appeal. Yet Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 seems to go out of its way to diminish the sense of flow and might that its combat should instill. Enemies love to perform knockbacks and stuns, and when you get enough foes after you, they can string several such attacks together. Even if you block frequently, your groove will be constantly interrupted by these types of attack. This is an even greater annoyance when using certain powers that entail longer-lasting animations that can't be halted, such as Human Torch's flame stream. These frustrations culminate in the game's bonus missions. If you want to expand your roster and add unlockable characters to your team, you have to take on these scenarios. It's too bad you don't unlock characters as you play the campaign (as in other versions of the game) because these missions are a hassle and therefore not worth the trouble. For example, to unlock Jean Grey, you have to perform a solo mission in which you must destroy a bunch of vehicles by telekinetically flinging self-destructing enemies at them. But this mission is the opposite of fun. The suicidal foes get stuck on objects and spawn in too few locations; when these issues are combined with the ungainly camera, your annoyance levels rise. Unlocking Penance involves defeating a certain number of enemies and then a final boss, but a huge enemy bottleneck that occurs right after opening a door puts the camera in a typically unhelpful position, and the ensuing madness might bring an end to the level. Few of these missions are enjoyable, and even if you make it through, you may not have earned enough points to unlock the character in question.
This sequel introduces a new type of skill: fusions. These two-character attacks do an extra amount of damage, and some of them light up the screen with vibrant special effects. But they aren't much fun to perform and are hampered by clumsy features. You must build up a fusion energy meter, indicated on the screen by stars. Once you reach four stars, you can unleash a fusion by holding Z, flinging the nunchuk to the side, and using the onscreen pointer to choose the hero you want fused with your active character. Because you normally don't have to keep the remote aimed at the screen, orienting the cursor can take a moment, which is a minor annoyance. A greater related issue is the character-revival mechanic, which is also tied to the fusion stars. Unless an enemy drops a fusion token, which immediately grants you four stars, your meter is slow to build. Reviving a downed character uses up a star, which prolongs the wait. And, those tokens have a bad habit of appearing where they're hardest to get to--in the middle of multicharacter melees. It's odd, too, that the bright visual eruptions caused by fusions aren't accompanied by energetic audio effects. They sound feeble, which makes performing them less than exciting.
Captain America delivers a stern warning to Iron Man not to appear in any more substandard games.
When you aren't beating up minor criminals and Marvel villains, you will be leveling your characters and equipping teamwide upgrade medals that drop on the battlefield. These elements are sadly shallow. You begin with only one upgrade slot and unlock a few more as you play; this methodology is just a way of presenting a stripped-down progression system as a series of "rewards." You can spend skill points as you see fit, and if you choose to allow characters to auto-advance, it's nice that you can assign priority levels to various powers so that they may evolve more quickly. However, the fact that you must lock yourself into a leveling method (auto-level the entire party, manually advance party, or auto-advance party but manually level the player-controlled character) at the outset of the game is mind-boggling. Also mind-boggling: every attempt to provide variety by taking the player out of battle. An end-level puzzle in which you must activate a sequence of computer terminals stops the game dead in its tracks, and the way your AI-controlled party crowds near you as you move about the room makes it even more exasperating. You point the remote at the screen and maneuver a dot through a maze in a hacking minigame, but this tangent isn't fun and seems like an obvious "let's do this because we can" motion-controlled gimmick. As such, don't expect to plug in a Classic Controller or GameCube controller: This button masher requires a remote and nunchuk.
Some licensed games are a labor of love, exhibiting profound respect for the source material. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, on the other hand, doesn't exhibit the kind of care and reverence a beloved brand merits. It's inelegant and underdeveloped, and it represents a major step backward when compared to the original. Halfhearted dialogue, bad AI, unimaginative level design, stripped RPG elements, and all sorts of other factors make the game feel as if it were pieced together on an assembly line and quickly tossed onto store shelves. The Marvel License deserves better--and so do Wii owners.