How to Make a Superman Game
Let me preface this by saying I love Superman. A lot. Its easy to make jokes about him being a big blue boy scout, being too perfect, being boring, but that just shows a lack of imagination. A good writer can give us stories like What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way or Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. And even when the big questions aren't being asked, Superman punching Zod through buildings in Man of Steel is a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the last son of Krypton has not been well served by videogames. From the infamously bad N64 game, forgettable movie tie-ins and generic side-scrolling shooters to appearances in crossover games like Lego Batman or Injustice: Gods Among Us, no game has really captured the feeling of being Supes.
So, here's a little thought experiment for how Superman games could work. If I had a modicum of artistic or computer talent, I might try to make one of them.
Playing as Someone Else
Superman is a force for nature. Chances are, if you've given him enough thought that you're reading this article, you've probably imagined being him. However, have you imagined living in the same world as him? Being a mortal man around god, and not Batman either. Just an ordinary cop, catching criminals in a free roaming city where sometimes you have to solve problems yourself and sometimes Superman gets involved. Sure, he might come and help you out but maybe he'll be too busy punching Darkseid through buildings and completely changing the environment around you.
Or maybe you could play as a master criminal, setting up decoys and thinking up the perfect crimes that you can pull off even with Superman hovering over you. Imagine an online multiplayer experience where one player blows things up to attract the man of steel, another hides behind lead shielding to orchestrate a third player pulling off a Kryptonite heist while he's not looking.
This would be a tricky game to develop, being either full of incredibly scripted events or a very smart piece of superhero AI, so it's a little outside of my skill set.
Just Go Balls-Out
Sometimes Developers try to squeeze Superman into a fighting game, pitting him against Aquaman or Batman like Ryu fighting Ken. By requirement, these games tone Superman's powers way down; he can't be so strong that one punch would destroy the moon or every fight would end in a single button tap. But what about a game that just pit him against his equals? Like the Dragonball Z games that get dropped every couple of years, I want a fighting game where Superman can fly around in three dimensions, where his punches can launch opponents a mile away and he can shoot laser beams at will.
Heck, make it an on-rails space shooter like Starfox and give it to the guys at Platinum. Bayonetta and the Wonderful 101 got bigger and bigger as they approached their endgame, I'm sure those boys could handle a flight towards the planet Apokolips, with Superman punching holes in moons and dodging Kryptonite death rays all the way there.
Somehow, though, I don't think I'd have the budget to make this game.
A Management Game
Superman moves at close to the speed of light, he can be anywhere on Earth in the blink of an eye. He's strong enough to throw a continent into space. He is, for all intents and purposes, indestructible. It seems like any Superman game would be like playing another game on God mode, but maybe that's the point. The difficulty isn't in knowing whether Superman can save the day, it's whether he will.
This hypothetical game would be a kind of text adventure/ strategy game. The player would choose whether to save the busload of children or fight the supervillain, whether to stand watch over Metropolis or go on a date with Lois Lane. Whatever Supes does, however much the Daily Planet praises his heroism, he'll have to deal with the repercussions of what he didn't do. Part dating sim, part Oregon Trail, if this game were well written and well illustrated, it could be really something.
Okay, actually, I probably could make this one.
Fine, I'm lazy.