Wiggle it… just a little bit.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance is the successor to the X-Men Legends series, using the now-familiar set of beat-em-up attacks, special powers, stat building, and co-operative four player gameplay. However, now the X-Men are joined by a host of other Marvel heroes, including Elektra, Captain America, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. The Wii version also features a new gesture-based control scheme for all of your characters' attacks.
When I first heard rumor that Marvel Ultimate Alliance would require players to use gestures to attack, I was so skeptical that I groaned out loud. Getting my hands on the actual game however, I was surprised to discover that not only does the gesture system work; it makes so much sense that I now prefer it over the standard button combos used on the other platforms. For example, in X-Men Legends II on GameCube, you would have to press A-A-B to do a pop-up attack that knocks your enemy into the air. On the Wii, you perform a pop-up by simply flicking the remote upwards, which is not only easier to remember, but just feels right for that specific attack. The overall result is that in the heat of battle, you experience a more intentional and instinctual sense of control.
There are five specific gestures used in Ultimate Alliance. Flicking the remote left or right will do a basic attack. Flicking it upwards performs a pop-up. Flicking it downwards executes a stun move. Thrusting the remote forward deals your opponent a knockback. And shaking the remote quickly left and right causes your character to unleash a flurry of quick attacks. (The developers like to call this gesture "wiggling".) To round out the basic controls, the analog stick on the nunchuk is used to move your character, the C button jumps, and the Z trigger is used to guard, roll, and grab.
To access your character's superpowers, you hold the B trigger on the remote to bring up a dial of powers that rotates around your character icon. You can then use the cross pad to scroll through the powers and execute the one you want with the A button. Xtreme powers and some other moves have to be dialed-in this way, but your main superpowers can also be accessed simply by holding the B trigger and using the same five gestures.
From what I've seen so far, Mr. Fantastic has some of my favorite powers with his body-stretching abilities. Thrusting the remote forward shoots his elastic arms across the screen with force. Wiggling sends his arms spinning like propellers to get in rapid hits, and flicking downward causes him to roll into a ball that can zip around the screen and knock into enemies.
Gesturing is also used in sections of boss battles that are reminiscent of the Quick Time Events in Sega's Shenmue or Capcom's Resident Evil 4. In a snowy outdoor level, you come against a towering ice monster that periodically slams his fist into the ground near your party. There are also smaller creatures (that are still quite a bit larger than you) carrying spears. In order to defeat the main boss, your team has to take out one of the smaller enemies, and one of you has to grab the spear. You then wait for the ice monster's fist to hit the ground so that you can stab it with the spear and climb onto its fist. This sets off a sequence of gesture icons that you have to follow in order to use repeated spear stabs to climb up the monster's arms and onto his back where you can pierce the back of its neck. Take too long to perform any of the gestures, and the monster will shake you off with ease.
Stealing weapons seems to be a more common occurrence in this title as well. In addition to the spear-wielding baddies, we came across sword-slashing demons in a hell-themed level. If you time it right, you can press the Z button to climb on the creature's back, take the sword right out of his hand, and stab him in the head. After that, you get to keep the sword, which is powerful enough to take out whole groups of minor enemies with a single swing!
To finish up, there are some humorous and bizarre level concepts this time around. There is a pinball themed level, with electrified bumpers that you have to avoid while fighting, and a carnival level with all sorts of wackiness. Your team will have to drive bumper cars to defeat one group of enemies. Clown after clown after clown emerges from a tiny clown car. And you'll have to follow Jean Grey into an arcade machine, where you have to conquer the crocodiles, logs, and other dangers of the classic Atari 2600 version of Pitfall. When one player fails, the next will pick up from the screen he died on to keep going until the team makes it to the goal. I may need to brush up on my Pitfall skills, but I'm quite sure those old crocs weren't prepared to have The Thing jumping across their heads.