Given that Marvel has safely embedded itself as a multimedia juggernaut, with movies, television shows, and, of course, video games, it should come as no surprise to see them trying to take over the iOS world as well. Marvel Entertainment’s Marvel Run Jump Smash brings some of your favorite comic book characters to iOS form, blending traditional endless runner-style gameplay with the glitz and glamour of superheroes.
Quick question: who is your favorite superhero? Do you dig Captain America’s sense of justice and shiny shield? Love Black Widow’s flair for espionage and acrobatics? Do you just want to smash things like the Hulk? Well, too bad, because you barely get to play as them in Marvel Run Jump Smash. You’ll spend most of your time playing as either Nick Fury or Maria Hill, armed with laser pistols, as they pursue a Tesseract-wielding Loki. After selecting your S.H.I.E.L.D. agent of choice, you’ll run after Loki, grabbing coins, shooting bad guys and occasionally grabbing power-ups.
There are lots of power-ups to choose from--shields, coin magnets and even superhero tokens that let you play as your favorite heroes temporarily. Though the power-up variety is welcome, nothing really impacts the rhythm of gameplay enough to make a difference. Sure, Iron Man flies, Captain America double-jumps and Hulk smashes, but you only get to play as each hero very briefly, so you never really sink into a good groove with them. Plus, Marvel Run Jump Smash rewards you for continuously collecting groups of coins without missing any, but when you swap between your S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and a superhero, there’s a second of downtime where you’re not grabbing coins. This will cause you to inevitably mess up your combo, which lowers your overall score and the amount of money you get to spend in the shop.
Everything here is a rehash of things we’ve seen before. You run, you snag coins, you fight a brain-dead army of identical enemies. The simple, dull gameplay would be a bit more forgivable if you ever felt like you were working towards some satisfactory rewards, but, sadly, Marvel Entertainment’s greed has overpowered any sense of fun to be had. There are additional superheroes you can add to your team, but the cost of each hero is outrageous. Given that you’ll earn anywhere from one to three hundred coins per session, acquiring the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of coins necessary to unlock a new hero is nigh impossible without spending real money… which is an option if you decide to fork over an extra five dollars per hero. And you can buy additional abilities for each hero, too, with prices that start small and quickly careen into unfeasible. For a title that already costs a dollar, and whose gameplay is mind-numbingly simple and repetitive, this is unforgivable.
On the plus side, Marvel Run Jump Smash’s aesthetics are excellent. The music pumps to an exciting beat, and the chibi-inspired super-deformed heroes are well-animated and fun to look at. The controls are responsive, with the designated buttons for jump, attack, and special attack arranged smartly. However, the best controls in the world don’t make up for an uninspired level design. Often, groups of coins are placed in a way to where you’ll time your jumps perfectly and almost get a full combo going, but often you’ll fall short due to poor coin placement rather than lack of skill. The icing on the totally weak-sauce-covered cake that is this game, is that an internet connection is required to play. It’s not a deal breaker for those of you playing on phones, but tablet players won’t be able to play much, if at all, on the go.
Uninspired, underdeveloped, and over-priced makes for a bad combination. It’s a shame, too, as the base gameplay for Marvel Run Jump Smash makes for a decent enough iOS title, and the cute characters are certainly fun to use. If Marvel Entertainment had focused a little more on entertainment and less on profits, they might’ve had a decent title on their hands. As it is, this is one Marvel game even Stan Lee would pass on. ‘Nuff said.