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PowerUp Heroes review: Clap your hands, stomp your feet


If your childhood was anything like mine, you spent a good deal of time wishing you could fly, or move stuff with your mind, or that you had Wolverine claws. My summers spent at the public pool weren't full of swimming so much as they were full of me splashing water and yelling "Hadouken!" a whole bunch.

I tell you this because PowerUp Heroes immediately took me right back to those times, allowing me to live out my fantasies of being a superhero in a more tangible and, thanksfully, more private way.

Gallery: PowerUP Heroes (Xbox 360) | 6 Photos

There isn't much of a story to PowerUp Heroes: Evil alien dude comes to Earth and wants to do evil stuff, but good alien dude crashes and gives his power suit to the nearest human being. Thankfully, that rote plot device isn't too important -- the narration quickly gives way to the far more satisfying gameplay.

There's such a smaller disconnect between power and control using the Kinect -- it feels so satisfying to throw fireballs with a gesture, or to punch wildly at your TV while your Avatar lets loose on your foe. Kinect pulls you into the experience more than a controller ever could, and because PowerUp Heroes isn't a technical fighter akin to your Street Fighters and your Mortal Kombats, the input lag of Kinect doesn't impede the fun one bit.

The game plays out like any other fighter: You've got health, they've got health and you've gotta empty their reserves before they do the same to you. A Rage meter, which fills as you take damage, amplifies your attacks. Prior to each battle, you choose your suits -- each of which has its own unique set of attacks -- and you're thrust into battle.

Fighting itself is entirely fueled by Kinect. You can thrust an arm out and shoot a quick projectile, but in the bottom right-hand corner are three separate, more powerful moves exclusive to that particular suit. Raise your hands in the air to gather energy, then bring them down to shock your opponent. Mimic throwing a fireball, and you'll throw a fireball. Other suits are themed around a certain element or power, with attacks and abilities aligned under that theme. Thrusting an arm straight-up into the air will switch between the suits you've set prior to the match.

Leaning left or right will dodge to that respective side, essential knowledge for the players looking to not get punched in the face. But even if your opponent tries to punch you in the face, you've got a defense: Quick melee encounters spring up a kind of pseudo-QTE, where you quickly match gestures on-screen to block blows. It's all very easy to grasp and works surprisingly well.

Unfortunately, that's the big problem with PowerUp Heroes: The gesture-based battles work so well, but with only a campaign mode that clocked in at a little over two hours, there wasn't enough depth to hold my interest for long. The addition of local and online versus, as well as a tournament mode promised to extend my stay, but they, too, lost their luster quickly.

PowerUp Heroes is a good, promising first attempt from Ubisoft, but after collecting all 20 of the game's suits and finishing the meager campaign, there wasn't much else to do. It's one of the most frustrating kinds of games that a company can possibly release: The disappointing thing about PowerUp Heroes is how much I like playing it, and how very little there is to play.

This review is based on a retail copy of PowerUp: Heroes, provided by Ubisoft.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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