To start off, I am NOT a game designer. Hell, I'm not even that good at most video games. This is just going to be a poorly thought-out rant of an blog post.
Hey, speaking of poorly thought out, let's talking about Superman games!
Arguably the most powerful and famous superhero of all time, Superman has starred in some of the greatest comics, movies and cartoons ever created...but what about his games? They've all been mediocre at best and at worse, they've been Superman 64.
I don't want to sit here and just mock the games, that's been done to death, I want to try to brainstorm on how to make a GOOD game. There have been good superhero games before, Batman: Arkham Asylum/City/Knight((?) I haven't played it yet, so I can't judge); Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage (well, it was very flawed, but still fun), Spider-Man 2000, Spider-Man 2 (PS2, Xbox), Shattered Dimensions and Web of Shadows were all fun...but, those two characters are on the relatively low end of the power totem pole, right? Bats just has athletic ability and tons of gadgets while Spider-Man (while capable of lifting 25 tons or more and dodge automatic fire) is still susceptible to injuries and death...
But wait, The Incredible Hulk--considered one of Marvel's most powerful characters--had a game that gave you his full power and it was great!
Sure, Superman isn't a rampaging radioactive man-beast that destroys everything in his path (well, except for in Man of Steel) but, this at least shows that you can give a hero his full power without weakening gameplay. The trick seems to be how you build around it.
So, how do we build a game around Superman's powers while keeping it interesting and entertaining?
One thing Supes is know for in the comics isn't just stopping Darkseid or Doomsday, but also stopping major storms, saving villages from earthquakes and even depression.
Perhaps by having the players juggle between various crisis situations in a massive world with timers like the ones in the Dead Rising series would give enough variation on gameplay to keep things interesting, but only rewarding the players based on successes and not punishing them for failures would keep them from getting frustrated? Especially if it gives the players to find creative ways to use Superman's godlike powers to solve the problems (superspeed and flight to disrupt dangerous storms, ice breath and strength to stop lava flows, etc.). That's one of the tricks to a well done Superman story in the comics: He's a character that doesn't want to constantly have to resort to the sledgehammer method, rather trying to powers in more constructive and creative methods as opposed to throwing things into the Sun.
Boss Battles Only
Let's be honest, fighting mooks as Superman would be boring. He can defeat mere mortals with a harsh glare and even some higher tier opponents with no more than his pinky, so...should they even BE in the game? Sure, the potential of defeating the occasional bank robber might break up all of the saving kittens from trees or whatever...but wouldn't that get boring after a while? WE'RE CONTROLLING SUPERMAN! WE WANNA DO MORE THINGS THAN JUST BE THE WORLD'S SUPERNANNY AND KEEPING PEOPLE FROM CATCHING ON FIRE! WE WANNA USE THESE POWERS TO BUST SOME FACES.
What if instead, we took a page from Shadow of the Colossus and have nothing but boss battles??
Here's where we could also get into an argument of levels vs. open world as well. Possibly having Superman flying around some kind of hub world to find these baddies fighting while also balancing his other side quests of saving kittens from trees or whatever.
Or we could cut out the open world and have levels connected to a map screen. Maybe with Superman floating in space above Earth using his supervision to see where the trouble was occurring. The player would pick their mission and Supes would fly there (this could also cover for the area's loading screen), from there, the devs could just focus on making a bunch of puzzle based bosses like from SotC or even the Mr. Freeze battle from Arkham City. One battle could be one of brute strength (Superman vs. Mongul) or where Supes has to use long distance abilities (using heat vision against Metallo or Parasite) to subdue opponents. Maybe after finishing the first few, Supes would then have to deal with multiple opponents at once (Atomic Skull and Bizarro for example...though, that would be an odd pairing). Eventually, it could build up to the real serious bosses, like Doomsday (who would be fought in multiple areas, or where Supes has to manipulate the terrain to slow him down similar to some battles during Death of Superman) or eventually having the fight move from space to Earth and back (most likely again Darkseid).
Doing a boss-only system like this would not only give players difficulty-tiered system to learn how to use ALL of Superman's abilities and practice to see which ones worked best against certain opponents (Ooh...are we taking some lessons from Megaman and Pokemon right now? IT'S ALMOST LIKE I'M NOT A TOTAL IDIOT WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT LOLOLOLOL) but it would also give the devs an excuse to have a health bar/energy bar system in the game--maybe not have Superman actually be defeated, but having to return to space to recharge or heal if, say, Parasite drains too much of his powers or Metallo blasts him with Kryptonite too much...and then slowly introduce a health system with opponents that actual damage Superman?
Like I said before, Superman is a very easy character to write wrong or write stupid, he's crazy-powerful and can do almost anything...and it's even harder when making a video game...and...I've lost my train of thought now.
Oh course, all of this means butt cheeks if the combat and movement system isn't up to par...sadly, I can't give much advice on this...good thing I'm not a game designer! Haw!