Now, here's a rarity. A game launched by a big company (Marvel) designed to cash in on the popularity of a recent film (Avengers Assemble) that's (whisper it) actually quite good.
It's based around a series of mini-games each starring a different Marvel hero, such as Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine etc. In each mini-game, the objective is to repel attacks from leading Marvel villains. Many of these are based on popular arcade games (the Captain America level, for example, is a variant on Missile Command) and, whilst relatively simple, are rather fun.
Kapow has a really good learning curve. Early levels focus on a single hero and introduce you to the basic idea of that mini game and the controls and skills of that particular character. As you progress, later levels combine different characters, requiring you to swap between them to repel attacks. This really keeps you on your toes as it's up to you to make sure you select the right hero and remember the relevant controls. It's a simple gaming mechanic, but one that provides quite a lot of interest and excitement. Combining characters in this way adds e variety and can make the action somewhat frantic at times as you try and work out which character you need next.
Kapow is not a particularly challenging game, nor is it one you're likely to be playing long term. The mini-game format means it's the sort of title you are likely to play in short bursts when you have a few spare minutes. None of the levels are that difficult and experienced gamers are going to have it beaten (or get bored of it) fairly quickly. Even casual gamers stand a better than average chance of completing all the levels.
It can also become repetitive. Although levels make use of the powers of different characters, the basic gameplay for each is really quite similar. It tends to be one of those titles that I play in short ten minutes bursts for a while and then ignore for ages. Having said that, because the basic gameplay sis so much fun, it is something that I return to reasonably regularly.
It has to be said that the graphics are a bit of a disappointment. Some of the presentation screens are top notch, designed to look like comic panels, whilst the cut-scenes are well-rendered and interesting. It's the levels themselves that let things down a little. They look rather bland and minimalist and don't really capture the look and feel of a comic book at all. Most of the levels consists predominantly of a big blue space (the sky) with a familiar Marvel building (such as Stark Tower) providing the backdrop. To be honest these are not great and had the game not told me that this was Stark Tower, I'm not sure I would have recognised it.
In game graphics are rather on the small side, which again lets it down. If you're going to feature a game that stars some of Marvel's best known characters, then surely you want them to have the same larger than life look they have in the comics? Apparently not. The figures of enemies such as Red Skull or Magneto are tiny, flitting onto the screen briefly to launch some weapon or other and then disappearing. Frankly, they are so tiny that it could be anyone. Even more disappointing is that the actual hero you are playing is never featured. On the Captain America levels, for example, you don't actually see Cap - he is merely represented by a shield. I understand the design reasons behind this, but it's disappointing from a visual point of view.
Sound is similarly rather limited, with the usual range of in-game noises, although some of the tunes are very good and get the adrenalin pumping. For comic book fans, there's not really a lot of fan service been paid here and it's clear this game is really aimed at those whose only real knowledge of Marvel is through its films. Bit of a missed opportunity, that.
In a way, Marvel Kapow is slightly ironic. The source material for the game are highly visual (the bold graphics of the comics and the imaginative SKKKRRRT type captions designed to capture noises in writing) provide a real sense of identity. Marvel Kapow, on the other hand, eschews this and goes for bland presentation style that does nothing for the game.
On the upside, controls are excellent and it's clear that the game has been designed with the iPhone in mind, rather than being a lazy port of a game born on another console. As such, the designers have implemented these with the iPhone's strengths and weaknesses in mind. All the controls are simple touch screen affairs and work very well. If you're controlling Captain America, for example, you just slide your fingers along the screen to move the shield to where you want it to be; when controlling Wolverine's claws, you place two fingers on the screen and swipe across to mimic the slashing motion of the character. These have been really well thought out so that each character's controls is slightly different (to stop things from being too easy), instantly accessible and intuitive. It's nice to be able to praise an iPhone game for its controls for once, since this is often the bane of many titles.
At just 69p to download, you can't really complain. It's a fun title that epitomises pick up and play gaming. There's no real long term challenge and it's not a game you will spend hours at a time on. However, it is a game that is fun in five or ten minute bursts and will occupy you whilst you're waiting for a bus or sitting in a pub waiting for a friend to arrive. Simple, but fun.
© Copyright SWSt 2012