So then - this looks a little bit like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, doesn't it? And that in turn looks a bit like X-Men: Legends, right? Proof that superhero 'RPG lites' are the flavour of the month these days, perhaps. We stroked our chins and withheld judgement on Justice League Heroes - if any game looked guilty of jumping on a bandwagon it was this one. But now we've had the pleasure of playing it, we're pleasantly surprised!
Developed by Snowblind Studios - the team responsible for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance - it's abundantly clear there's some quality under the bonnet here. As Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Flash or Zatanna, you'll traverse the usual isometric landscapes KER-POWING and SOCKING various DC enemies and powering up with the standard incremental skill-system, as in X-Men: Legends and the soon-to-be-released Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. To be honest, only a hardcore RPG purist would notice the difference between the Marvel and DC RPGs - but then the purists won't be flocking to play as Batman and Superman so long as there's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to be getting on with.
Having thwacked our way through four worlds so far, though, we can report that Justice League Heroes is extremely playable and does perfect, erm, 'justice' to the heroes involved. The invincible Superman has a fantastic array of powers, including the ability to super-heal, plus useful laser eyes, ice breath and power punch. He can also fly, obviously, as can the likes of Green Lantern and Batman (well, to some extent). This adds an interesting dynamic to the gameplay, because attacks will come from different directions. If a droid can't attack you from ground level, there's every likelihood it'll dart into the air to attack from above. That's when Supes needs to take flight, making sure the air is clear of flying foes.
Each character has five different super powers - Zatanna, for example, can conjure areas of dead space that slow anything entering them, or throw down a spell that turns the most ferocious enemy into an ickle bunny wabbit. Obviously, the heroes make the greatest headway when their powers are combined - so if Batman is overrun with bad guys, Wonder Woman can lasso a few up like cattle, tied up nice for a good bruising from the batfists... We found it was always best to have one flying superhero too - that way, your back's always covered. But, Superman or not, Justice League Heroes is one tough cookie. The Man of Steel got whipped by Brainiac when we played - there's a devilish amount of traps and pitfalls for our heroes to stumble into.
Despite the DC stable of characters, we can't stress how closely this emulates the likes of X-Men: Legends and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. But is that a bad thing? No - it's a very good thing indeed. Even at this early stage the whole thing plays like a dream and is a delicious challenge to get stuck into. So, if EA's Superman tie-in stinks to high heaven on release (not that we're implying it will, of course), at least fans of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and reclusive millionaire Bruce Wayne will have lots to keep them interested. We'll have more screens and info next issue - stay tuned, super-fans!