LOS ANGELES – As powerful as they are in comic books and movies, superheroes seemed destined for eternal lameness in video games.
"X-Men: The Official Game" (Rated E-10+ for handheld versions, rated T all other platforms, $29.99-$59.99) certainly sucks the "super" out of the successful comic series and even more profitable movie franchise.
Set between the second X-Men movie and the new "X-Men: The Last Stand ," the game takes our misunderstood mutant outcasts to some familiar locales from the films, beginning with the cavernous dam complex at Alkali Lake from "X2."
In the Xbox 360 version, I played one of three playable characters depending on the level: the blade-fisted brawler Wolverine, the ice-surfing Iceman and the blue-skinned, teleporting Nightcrawler.
You'd think one of the star characters would be the most fun, but I found Wolverine an oversimplified bore, with a limited number of slashes, punches and kicks to clobber one enemy after another.
Iceman at least served up some cool, if awkward, aerial combat but again there wasn't much variety in the action.
Nightcrawler was definitely the best character of the three, with a great variety of acrobatic maneuvers and some really fun punching combos where you teleport behind enemies and beat them to a pulp.
Too bad the enemies are so ridiculously stupid and redundant. These brainless baddies don't bother to get out of your way and instead just stand around waiting to be pummeled.
One good aspect to this lack of artificial intelligence: I was able to zip through the exceptionally uninspiring levels quickly and easily.
The long stretches of tedium were interrupted by some occasionally interesting boss battles, but by the time I reached these powerful villains my desire to keep playing was fading fast.
As you complete each level, you can enhance your mutant's DNA for additional health points or more powerful attacks. But I'm still not sure if my choices ever really made a difference.
Replay value is limited and the lack of any online multiplayer modes doesn't help.
At the very least, a two-player mode where you and a friend could either battle each other or work together would have really helped.
Considering the mavens at Marvel Comics gave it their stamp of approval, it's disappointing to see such a dull game.
Here's hoping the inevitable video-game version of the upcoming film "Superman Returns" can pack a bigger punch.
One star out of four.