The Trials of UnSub: Super Hero Squad Online

Super Hero Squad Online Beta logo

Taken from the SHSO site moments ago. But allegedly this game launched 3 weeks ago. And I believe you can certainly pay money to buy things in-game. Lots of mixed signals.

Gazillion continues to confuse me.

According to some sources SHSO has officially launched and is now taking player money, but there is no big announcement of launch on either publisher Gazillion’s main site or on developer The Amazing Society’s site (but go look at The Amazing Society’s site, because it has a very clever home page). David Brevik, President and CEO of Gazillion (wait, I thought John Needham was Gazillion’s CEO? But anyway) has said that SHSO is released, but then you go to the home page of SHSO and are greeted with a big ‘Beta!’ on the logo.

I don’t know what stage I’m playing this game in. But since there’s even a launch trailer, I’m going to treat this like a MMO at launch.

As such: SHSO is missing a lot of things for a game that’s just launched. I’m only playing the free version, but there’s nothing I’ve seen that makes me think I’d want to hand over money to unlock the game further. Notably absent is the card game aspect (though it is “coming soon”) that was meant to add another layer to what players could do.

Super Hero Squad Online - Flying around Asgard.

Flying around and seeing the sights is a good way to view SHSO's main areas.

As a basic browser game, SHSO is polished enough. It looks cute and mostly works, although I’ve had quite a few disconnections while playing. I haven’t seen any critical bugs or issues, but I don’t think I should either, given that SHSO only has three zones available to players, with each world – The Daily Bugle, Baxter Plaza and Asgard – being not much more than a lobby to run around in. You can click on things and see them react, which is cute, but it won’t hold your attention for that long. Characters with flight can click on special icons on the ground to fly around on a pre-set path that is, again, fun the first few times but wearing after that.

The free trial gives you four characters to play with: The Thing, Ms Marvel, Cyclops and Falcon. They do feel a bit different in play, but all rely on the same mechanic – click on a target until they fall over, find a new target, then repeat until the end of the mission. Most missions I’ve played don’t last more than 10 – 15 minutes and are split into one or two ‘minion’ levels and then a ‘boss’ level. The boss – Doctor Octopus, Fin Fang Foom and the like – require slightly different tactics, but they are still bags on hitpoints on which to pummel.

Content is in very short supply. The free trial only has two missions available to it in the variable daily mission and one mission that trial players can buy (but some days the daily mission IS the Doc Oc mission available for silver coins, in which case all us freeloaders only have one mission to play). However, even if I’d bought all the missions, a rough count only shows 16 different missions for all characters. Given that the mission rewards seem increase if you can keep up the combos and finish a mission quickly, that’s not a lot of content to hold players’ attention.

Oh, and since you level up characters individually, if you wanted to level up multiple heroes in your squad you have to play through each of those missions with every character.

Super Hero Squad Online - Asgard's puppet show

There are some very cute touches to SHSO. Loki strongly disputes the accuracy of this play's narrative though.

Rewards for various things come in the form of silver coins (but you need gold coins – available to those who subscribe – for the good stuff) and tickets that you can use to spin a wheel for random rewards. For every ticket you have, you get to spin the wheel once. I’ve got over 100 tickets currently. I’m not going to click ‘Spin!’ 100 times, Amazing Society. Fix that up so I can click once and spend all my tickets, thanks.

Players can also customise their headquarters somewhat, buying extra rooms (if you subscribe) and items to put in them. Unfortunately you can only see the rooms on a fixed pseudo-isometric angle, so they feel a bit ‘locked’ in what you can do with them. You can also feed your heroes in your HQ. Why do the heroes need to be fed? Beats me.

As for community / interacting with other players: there isn’t much. It’s a child-friendly game, so you can’t really type in messages for others to read. The best you get is emoting in front of others (and the emotes are cute) but I don’t think I’ve seen the same player twice in-game.

(Side note: all characters being selected from the same pool and looking the same actually makes it hard to identify the player behind them. After all, did you team with this Cyclops here, the Cyclops next to the fountain or the Cyclops dancing in the corner?)

The above might sound harsh about SHSO, so to balance that I’ll say I was drawn back to give SHSO “just one more go” on a number of occasions. The seed is there. But to summarise SHSO now it is cute, accessible and shallow. If it was actually in beta, I’d be a lot more positive.

But since it has officially launched and wants your cash, there are just better child-friendly MMOs out there.

EDIT: I meant to add a comment about when SHSO online is at its best – when you have a team of four heroes, all breaking out with different powers and decimating hordes of enemies, it is just fun. Repeating (and repeating and repeating) missions solo is a lot less enjoyable.

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