The deepest roster of classic comic book heroes can be found in Gazillion Entertainment’s upcoming Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, based on the Hasbro toy line and animated series.  Aimed a kids aged 6 through 12, the game seeks to expand on the universe created by the show. Gazillion’s ten year deal with Marvel gives them access to not only the large roster of Marvel characters that have been featured on the show or in the toy line, but to all their characters, including their own original takes on Blade, Emma Frost and Bullseye.

Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is divided into three sections, the first is a simplified traditional MMO hub environment, where players, who can select among “dozens and dozens” of Marvel Super Heroes to play as, can interact with others with an expansive list of emotes created to be unique to each hero.  For example, Captain America can display his one-fingered pushup skills, while Thor busts out his electric guitar and confirms his Rock God status.  At any time the player can drop into a mission, either alone, with a group of friends, bots, or random people.  In PvE combat all the action and movement is single-click, Diablo style.  Clicking on foes initiates attacks, and can be done until the enemies are defeated.  The players are directed around the instance with big arrows and glowing targets, making it impossible to get lost.

The second portion of Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is the customizable S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier rooms that serve as each player’s home.  These spaces include, but are not limited to, the command center, a workout room and a series of bedrooms that can be filled with furniture and objects that the players, and their invited friends, can interact with.  Each object is assigned animation that the players can initiate by approaching them, and they also are imbued with ’real-world’ physics.  This allows them to be knocked around, harmlessly, by the heroes or the occasional giant beach ball.  To prevent sheer vandalism for its own sake, no visitor can permanently destroy their host’s house.

The final part of Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is the game’s PvP system which takes the form of a card battle game.  Designed by experienced CCG talent formerly of Wizards of the Coast, the Marvel Super Hero Squad Online card game is an extremely simple but fun way to pit humans, or a computer controlled foe, against each other in a non-violent manner.  Beyond the initial decks, more cards can be found by players by winning matches or playing the core game.  Other than the promo decks created for PAX, the game will for now exist entirely online.

With its target audience of small children, a lot of attention has been paid to security.  For now, there will not be any live chat in any form beyond pre-written lines and emotes, and any chat implemented will be heavily moderated.  The game will also be moderated for players attempting to spell anything out with objects or characters.

Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, is colorful, fun and will be playable in any web browser.  It will start as free to play, with a micro-transaction option to add characters and environments.  When asked about the ability to play as the villains, the official word is that they “can’t say.”  The same is said on Gazillion’s plans for a mature Marvel MMO, beyond it being in active development.  Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is in Beta and the release is targeted for early 2011.

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