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Marvel: Ultimate Alliance [PSP]

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Preview

"We take on all comers in Activision and Vicarious Visions' upcoming PSP game."

Vicarious Visions' upcoming Marvel: Ultimate Alliance for the PSP is the portable version of the console game of the same name. The game follows in the footsteps of Vicarious' last PSP game, X-Men Legends II, another slick counterpart to a console game. MUA is the evolution of the winning formula that's been used in the X-Men Legends games. It plays up the character progression and item collection elements seen in those games and tosses in some nice customization touches. The veteran developer has proven to be more than just a port house and has consistently delivered some smart conversions and expansions of games on other platforms. Given the developer's ambitious nature and its track record, we've been excited to see what Vicarious has in store for its latest PSP game.

It's not just the X-Men this time--Marvel Ultimate Alliance will feature heroes from all across the Marvel universe.

It's not just the X-Men this time--Marvel Ultimate Alliance will feature heroes from all across the Marvel universe.

We wound up playing through a sampling of levels taken from different parts of the game that let us check out several members of the game's cast of 20-plus playable characters. For those keeping a running tally of the combatants, we tried Iceman, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Thor, Thing, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Wolverine, Electra, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, Captain America, and Spider-Man. Each hero featured its own unique moves and abilities, and if you use the right combination of heroes, they can wind up being excellent complements to one another.

We were able to check out a whopping 10 levels in the game, which showed off the eclectic cast of characters being assembled for the adventure, running the gamut from playable characters to cameos. The first two levels we tried were on the now-familiar S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier level at the start of the game and again found Cap, Spidey, Thor, and Wolvie responding to an SOS from Nick Fury.

The first level ended with our taking on the Scorpion, while the second part of the helicarrier level pitted us against Bullseye. There wasn't much new content in the level, which we've played a few times now on the other consoles the game is appearing on. The big difference from our previous play-throughs is that the level now contains a number of small polish tweaks that show off hints on how to play.

The next set of three levels we tried found our superteam going proactive and trying to take out the villainous Mandarin. As a card-carrying villain, he seems like a logical choice to be a part of Dr. Doom's newly reformed Masters of Evil, who are set up as the game's protagonists in the helicarrier level. The levels offer a change of pace from the airborne madness of a helicarrier under siege by villainous robots, and they find you exploring the Mandarin's fortress and dealing with his henchmen, many of which are animated statues. The first Mandarin level led to a confrontation with the Grey Gargoyle, a lesser-known villain in the Marvel universe, who's a pain thanks to his ability to temporarily turn you to stone. The second Mandarin level had us crossing paths with everyone's favorite sorcerer supreme, Dr. Strange, who we unlocked as a playable character. The last Mandarin level had us facing off against the villain who wielded his trademark rings, each of which has a unique and annoying ability to cause trouble.

The Mandarin's Asian-themed castle was a sharp contrast to the next area we played, the always troublesome Arcade's Murderworld. For those unfamiliar with the red-haired villain, Arcade is essentially a hired hit man who uses a lethally booby-trapped amusement park, the aforementioned Murderworld, to take out his targets. The levels had a whimsical but deadly tone to them as circus-themed foes came out of the woodwork to try to kill our heroes. The first level ends with MUA's quartet of heroes attempting to free the X-Men's Jean Grey from Arcade's control (and features a very awesome retro game we'll share in a bit), which leads to a fight against the powerful psychic. The second Murderworld level takes place in one of Arcade's signature Murderworld locales, a giant pinball machine, and features the Shocker and Rhino as your adversaries.

The right combination of powers can spell trouble for your enemies.

The right combination of powers can spell trouble for your enemies.

The next level, which took place in Mephisto's realm, offered a decidedly satanic change of pace from the previous levels. For those unfamiliar with the big M, Mephisto is an entity of pure evil, often mistaken for the devil, who wields vast mystic powers and has his very own mystic realm chock-full of slaves. The evil creature's mystic dimension was heavy on the supernatural and ended with a choice to free either Nightcrawler or Jean Grey (who's apparently a "damsel in distress" in MUA).

Posted on Oct 05, 2006