Whether to get out of homework, exact revenge on a bully, or just impress a potential date, every kid wants to be a superhero. But the Earth's yellow sun gives its native population sunburns instead of superpowers, and radiation is likely to make you a cancer patient rather than a mutant. So what's a wannabe to do? Retreat to the basement with X-Men Legends II, of course! In this follow-up to 2004's X-Men Legends, Apocalypse threatens to destroy Earth. In the face of this mighty adversary, the X-Men team up with their arch-rivals from Magneto's Brotherhood to defeat him, presumably so they can get back to fighting each other.
From a pool of 16 playable characters, you assemble a team of four mutants (which can be changed easily, in case Nightcrawler just isn't working out) and take them through more than 70 levels. You can choose which mutant you'll control at any given time, and tell the game's AI how to handle the other three, from aggressive to defensive modes. Unlike many other current team-based games, Legends II has an extremely competent AI which makes good logical choices in the heat of battle. As your heroes level up, you can distribute points to various stats and skills on your own, or you can let the AI do it for you, which is a nice touch if you want a balanced character and just want to get back to the action. You can also improve characters by purchasing or finding armor, including unique items for specific mutants.
Though it's billed as an RPG, and the game advertises challenging puzzles, the role-playing is limited to a few conversations that don't really affect the game's outcome, and the puzzles are few, far between, and easy. Players expecting Morrowind will be disappointed, but Legends II is so much fun to play that you'd have to be a serious Comic Book Guy to not enjoy it.
Beyond the game: During breaks from the fighting, unleash your inner geek with the trivia mini-game, which asks questions about X-Men history and characters. Also, the cinematics are breathtaking, and thanks to the vocal talents of actors like John DiMaggio, Tara Strong, Armin Shimerman, and Patrick Stewart, some of them are better than what we saw in X2: X-Men United.
Worth playing for: Combining mutant power attacks with other heroes. It's way cool when the game shouts "COMBO!" as your enemies fall. The multi-player options are outstanding, too. Up to four of your friends can join and leave the game on the fly (online and offline), and you can battle head-to-head, or play special co-op missions.
Frustration sets in when: During battles, the floating camera frequently gets stuck behind terrain, or leaves too wide of a shot, so it's easy to lose sight of your character. You'll have to resort to lame button-mashing to stay alive.
Final judgment: X-Men Legends II is more of an action-based button-masher than a sandbox RPG, but there's nothing wrong with that. The few limitations are easily offset by just how enjoyable it is to play this game.