NOTE: PLAYED ON AN iPod TOUCH 5
Hi, my name is Blair, and for a price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you can own a really great Guardians of the Galaxy game.
For every major Marvel film release, as I’ve stated on numerous occasions, you can expect to find a mobile game tie-in but this one came right out of Knowhere (EDITOR: THAT’S A LITTLE GOTG HUMOR, NOT A TYPO.) If there was any pre-promotion for this I was unaware of it, so to my knowledge this was both unveiled and released on this past Thursday.
The Universal Weapon’s art style reflects the characters as they’ll appear on the big screen in just under two weeks, but the story has more in common with the comics, perhaps because it’s penned by famous Guardians of the Galaxy writer Dan Abnett. The Guardians of the Galaxy are busted out of Prison 42 and are sent on a mission from the Nova Corps to recover the pieces of the titular Universal Weapon before it gets into the wrong hands, mainly those of space pirate Nebula and Ronan the Accuser.
I actually found the story, presented in comic-styled cut-scenes, really engaging and was eager to get to the next level to find out where the group was headed to next. In sections I found myself genuinely laughing out loud, mainly over Rocket’s dialogue, and was surprised that included within the game is an effective trimmed down telling of the well-known Planet Hulk story embedded organically into the story Abnett was trying to tell.
The game is an easy one to learn, but it actually has quite a bit of depth to it. Each of the games 60 levels across the six planets are an action-RPG arena battle where the goal is to kill all the enemies before they kill you. Controls are easy but effective: you tap on your character and drag an icon across the screen to move them to wherever you desire, or drag the icon to an enemy to initiate attack. Starting out you’ll only have to worry about positioning against enemies, but the arenas start rapidly developing other obstacles like fire traps as well as laser fields among others, adding yet another layer of strategy. A complaint against the controls is that when the game starts to ramp up in difficulty (which is does rather quickly) it can be difficult to select the character you want when things get hairy. I did play this on an iPod Touch, so whether or not this is an issue with large screen tablet devices I cannot say as I don’t own one. If someone wants to say if it does make a difference, I’d love to hear it in the comments.
Every character falls into one of several classes, and in fact play out a little like I wished a Guardians of the Galaxy game would. There’s characters that carry projectile weapons (Star-Lord and Rocket) which are effective against melee enemies, melee class characters (Drax and Gamora) that are effective against enemies with guns, and healers (Groot.) You’ll have access to that roster of characters early on and over the course of the game’s story you can unlock numerous characters from the comics, like Beta Ray Bill and Mantis, and even more to play in the games arena mode where you play endlessly against waves of enemies until you die. To entice you to come back, some characters like the Hulk, Angela, and Vance Astro will be added at an undisclosed date.
Outside of their basic attacks, each character has access to their own set of special abilities that are activated by tapping an icon in the left hand corner after first touching on that character. When certain characters are paired together (such as Rocket and Groot) you can initiate a special combo attack exclusive to that pair. Between levels you can edit who you want in your team, buy new gear with silver earned by beating missions, upgrade your weapons, or further boost your character’s stats with ISO-8’s (an item that makes an appearance in every Marvel game since 2012’s Avengers Alliance.) ISO-8’s can further be enhanced by combining them, four or more, into even stronger stat boosting items.
The Universal Weapon seems pretty easy starting out, but pretty early on you’re going to find that the only way to move past certain missions is to start grinding. Before you start to groan about how tedious grinding is, it’s actually not that bad, because you’re always getting useful rewards. Replaying missions, other than granting additional experience, provides medals that are used to unlock new characters, more currency and ISO-8’s. The game is so much fun to play that if you’re like me, you won’t find going back over older levels repeatedly.
When I first saw the art for the characters in this game, I was taken back at first but warmed up to the chibi designs rather quickly. Each Guardian animates well and are just the right size for how many heroes and enemies fit in the arena space. The winning animations, again especially Rocket, add a degree of personality to each of the combatants as well.
On the device I played this game, I did notice some technical issues that caused the game to crash, forcing me to relaunch the application. It was a minor inconvenience to have to start the game over, but it launches back into the game rather quickly and I never lost any amount of progress. I’m not sure if this is an issue on other “i” devices, or the Android and Windows Phone versions.
If you’re looking for something to kill time on your mobile device when you’re waiting to see Guardians of the Galaxy, or perhaps simply looking for a deep action-RPG on the go, look no further than Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon. For a paltry five dollars you get a full 60 mission campaign with a plethora of unlockable characters, upgrades and abilities.Fans of the characters, both old and new, also get an engaging story from one of the franchises most renowned writers that has many smile inducing, and a few laugh out lout moments. I’m not the biggest mobile gamer in the world, but if this is what Marvel has in store for their future offerings, color me curious.