Superheroes have been a staple of entertainment for decades since Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman (The caped crusader hadn’t added the “The” to his monicker quite yet!) took the army of masked avengers from the printed page to the main stream. From lunchboxes to action figures and clothing to tie-in video games, superheroes are a genre to themselves. Mimicking the movies that inspired them, while many are treasured by fans the majority of tie-in games ride the wave of hype and then forgotten. In the case of the games covered here deleted from the App Store and our memories, so we thought we would go back and look at these lost games to see if they can get the Spidey senses tingling?
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a Superman game! We could hardly have a round-up of superhero games without featuring at least one featuring the Man of Steel. There were actually several Superman games for mobile, but this one by Chillingo Ltd has got to be our favourite. The simply-named Superman saw our hero soaring across the Metropolis skyline, taking on a myriad of enemies using many of his best-known powers. These include heat vision, super breath and super speed, but it is the flying element which makes this game so much fun. The action took place over 18 levels as the evil mastermind Lex Luthor attempts top take over the world (well, what else does he have to fill his days?). The game was fairly simple in design, but that made sense, as the action was often faster than a speeding bullet and anything more complex would have made things difficult to follow. Each level contains score challenges, with gold, silver and bronze rewards, giving Superman a level of re-playability. You could also play a random mission mode when you have completed all of the main levels.
All in all, Superman was a fast, furious and fun challenge, even if it isn’t the most amazing looking game around, even at the time of its 2012 release. It was probably aimed more at younger players, but that didn’t mean that more mature super hero fans didn’t find plenty to keep them entertained.
Iron Man 2
“You are Iron Man!” in this release from the once prolific developer, Gameloft. Taking its cues from the movie sequel but interestingly not a direct tie-in, the action starts with Tony Stark showing off his shiny new suitcase armour in New York. Within minutes, robot drones start to attack and Iron Man is thrown into a battle which begins in New York but ends up spanning the globe, from city streets to tropical islands. You played the game in the third person perspective, with the camera positioned close behind our hero. In most situations this worked well enabling you see enough of the environment and your enemies to make things work smoothly. The controls did feel a bit cumbersome at times, however, and there were some frustrating moments when you are getting attacked by enemies off screen and scrolling around to target them just takes too long. This also was a problem during the flying portions of the game. Each level or mission being split into a series of objectives, from flying to a certain location to hacking computers. Sadly (or perhaps thankfully, depending on how hard you like your games) each objective is spelt out to you and there was never the need to simply explore the environment and work things out for yourself. This made the game feel like it is on rails, and you could’t help feeling that the nicely rendered locations are slightly wasted.
On the subject of graphics, there is no denying that most of Iron Man 2 looked very nice indeed. There were a few areas where the visuals are less than amazing, but the player models and enemies were all well done and more than make up for a few shoddy objects in the environment. If you are lucky enough to play the game on the iPad, the level of detail was even more impressive. The frame rate was reasonably high, making Iron Man 2 smooth and fluid to play, and there was rarely any slow-down or stuttering. Iron Man 2 was by no means perfect, and should possibly deliver more for the price, but it does tick a lot of boxes and if you were a fan of the Iron Man/Stark universe, you would probably find the game a lot of fun. There are undoubtedly better super hero games available on mobile, particularly if you like a bit of a challenge, but Iron Man 2 was still a good attempt at bringing this popular franchise to mobile devices. We didn’t love it 3000 though! Maybe a solid 1500?
Spider-Man: Total Mayhem
Although arguably the world’s favourite superhero (sorry Supes, apologies The Batman), and with a series of smash-hit movies to his credit, Spidey’s career in mobile games had been rather less than heroic, at this point at least. With the 2011 launch of Spider-Man: Total Mayhem, we true believers finally had a game worthy of our favourite Friendly Neighbourhood crime fighter. Gameloft’s Spider-man: Total Mayhem takes place in Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-man series, and offered gameplay just as overblown as the great comic book visuals. Spidey wasn’t limited to just “catching thieves, just like flies” because the game featured six of the comic’s most over-the-top super-villains, including Sandman, Rhino, Electro, Venom, Dr. Octopus and of course Green Goblin! “Look out! Here comes the Spider-man!”.
Gameplay harks back to the classic PlayStation 2 game Spider-man 2, offered a similar mix of web-slinging and close quarters combat. “Is he strong? Listen, Bud! He’s got radioactive blood,” which enabled you to perform some amazing combos, racking up over 50 hits with ease! “Can he swing from a thread?”. Webslinging was well implemented, although admittedly limited. The ability to traverse the entire city at your will isn’t available but the ability to swing along the rooftops is essential to the gameplay and is great fun to do. Gameloft at the time, had done what was seemingly impossible and developed a mobile Spidey game that is highly playable, a delight to fans and offers enough action and thrills to appeal to all. We really need to bring this back to the App Store! Nuff said…
Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty
Gesture controlled endless runner games have always been something of a hit and miss affair. When they work, as in Temple Run for example, they really add to the enjoyment of the game. If, however, gesture controls are not used in the right way, things can quickly go horribly wrong. Marvel Entertainment’s Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty falls into the gesture-control game category, but sadly not everything was rosy for the super hero legend. The concept of the game was actually quite a good one. You set the hero running and then use gestures (swipes to left, right, up and down) to make Cap duck or jump obstacles, bash enemies with his shield or perform a shield slide. When it all worked it felt fluid and fun, and clearing one of the 24 levels without slamming into something or having to stop was very satisfying. Alas the side-scrolling nature of the game means that this was rarely going to happen on your first, second or even third attempt, as objects and enemies appear almost directly in front of you and it felt like a bit of a slog on some of the later levels.
Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty looks quite nice, and when it worked, it worked well! Sadly, there were too many frustrations to make this a must-have game for your device. And like Steve Rodgers himself the game was absolutely right to retire.
Thor: Son of Asgard
Often the problem with super hero games that are a spin off of a film is that they are not much more than a series of scenes from the movie, with very little new story thrown in to add to a fan’s enjoyment. If you are a fan of Thor, then you have probably already seen the movie. So why would you want to get a game that just rehashes the key moments badly? Thankfully, Thor: Son of Asgard did delve a bit deeper in to the universe, whilst also giving plenty of nods in the direction of the film.
The game saw you controlling The God of Thunder as he battles through the diverse environments of Jotunheim, Alfeim, and Asgard to solve the mystery of the invasion and rescue Sif from her captors. At times the gameplay felt like an action RPG, whilst at others it felt far more like a hack-n-slash action game. It all looked very nice, with some really nice animations and effects to please the eye and keep you entertained. The controls were simple enough to work well on a small device, but still allow a good degree of freedom when it came to moving Thor around the environment and when attacking the large groups of enemies that you faced.
Thor: Son of Asgard wasn’t going to win any awards for unique gameplay or fresh thinking. It is very much a button bashing, hammer smashing action romp, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad game. Yes, the action did get a bit repetitive, and yes, it didn’t have the most inspiring plot, but it was good but minor fun nonetheless. A bit like the Thor: The Dark World, which is rather ironic.
Marvel Vs Capcom 2
Marvel Vs Capcom series of beat-em ups have always had a very loyal following, whatever console they have appeared on and rightly so as the games are fantastic. It must therefore have seemed like a great idea to port it to mobile and capture a whole new audience of casual gamers. Characters that anyone with even a passing interest in games or films will recognise, gameplay that is well suited to the short attention span of mobile users and graphics that should not be too hard to port. Sadly, the final result didn’t quite live up to the promise.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Marvel Vs Capcom 2 takes the classic beat-em up traditions established in the Street Fighter 2 series. There were over 50 characters from the Marvel and Capcom worlds to choose from, including Wolverine, Iron Man, Ryu, Mega Man and The Hulk. Combat is fast, furious and over the top, with multi-hit combos and power moves very much the norm.
Users can link up with others using Bluetooth for multiplayer battles, which is a nice touch and maintains the essential ingredient of the genre. Where the game failed here was in the controls. Although steps have been taken to simplify the controls system, it still seems hard to make your character do what you want them to do, via the touch screen. It isn’t enough to ruin the game as it really is that good, but it does take some getting used to. With the introduction of gaming controls for your mobile devices this game more than any of those listed here really needs a comeback!
Smith & Tinker’s Marvel KAPOW! was an attempt to ape the success of slashing games such as Fruit Ninja, using famous names and faces from the world of superhero’s and heroines. The story, if you can call it that, told us that Tony Stark has created a new defence platform that lets you wield the awesome powers of Marvel’s top Super Heroes to defend the planet from the attacks of Doctor Doom, Venom and several other villains. What this means in practice is that the disembodied heads of enemies fly at you and you used Wolverine’s claws or Thor’s hammer to smash and slash them. Iron Man’s gauntlet, Hulk’s fists and Captain America’s shield are also available as weapons, but the gameplay is essentially the same whichever you choose. Maybe that’s a little bit unfair. The gameplay styles for each character did change slightly, but whether you are deflecting enemies with the shield or smashing enemies with fists, it all felt very weak. Collision detection was also sometimes a problem, seeing us missing even slow moving enemies that we had quite clearly hit.
All in all, Marvel KAPOW! was a bit of a let down to both the name it uses and to the users that pay for it. The actual connection to the Marvel universe was slim at best and the whole thing felt a bit cheap and hastily put together. Maybe a Fantastic Four license would have been more fitting!
Batman Arkham City Lockdown
Warner Bros.’s The Batman Arkham series of games have been huge sellers on both PC and console, mixing brilliantly designed fight controls, huge areas to explore and plenty of puzzle elements to create some of the greatest Batman games ever made (if not THE best). So it was with joy that we got our hands on Batman Arkham City Lockdown for iOS back in 2012. From the outset the game didn’t disappoint and, despite the high price and a few frustrating moments, was easy to recommend to any serious mobile gamer. As the name suggests, the game was set within the confines of Arkham Asylum and followed a linear path through the different environments. This might have been slightly disappointing to fans of the console games, but you can hardly expect the sort of freedom that a console game can offer in a mobile device of the time. As it was, the level of detail in both the characters and levels is impressive enough to almost make you forget that this is designed to be played on something that fits in your pocket (or bag if you are using a tablet).
As you progressed through the one-on-one fights against thugs and boss characters, you could earn new gadgets to help you in your fights and add a nice RPG style feature to utility belt. If you were expecting Arkham City, but on mobile, you would go away feeling disappointed with Batman Arkham City Lockdown. But if you were looking for a fun addition to the Arkham universe with which to while away the odd half an hour, this is a more Christopher Nolan and less Joel Schumacher.