Good news for those looking to do a little gaming on their Androids this Thanksgiving. Marvel Games has finally released Avengers Initiative into the Google Play Store. The first episode in a series of updates that will eventually unlock Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor (not necessarily in that order) — Avengers Initiative puts you in the shoes of the Hulk (and his fancy new Jordans) as he battles enemies like Wendigo, Kronans, Skrulls, and the Abomination. Once locked up in a secret tower, these baddies have escaped and it’s up to the newly assembled Avengers headed by Nick Fury to round ‘em up.
Avengers Initiative plays eerily similar to titles like Infinity Blade or Blood & Glory. Think of AI as a boxing game on steroids (it’s all about the 1-0n-1 matches). That means players will have to execute well timed blocks, dodges and combos to take down the baddies. Attacks are performed by swiping in different directions on the screen, and you’ll need to perform combos to rack up the maximum amount of damage onto your opponent. A large portion of AI’s battles are all about that D — defense, that is — and involve either swiping the opposite direction of an enemies strike, dodging, or blocking to stun the opponent and leave them open for the counter attack. So much of the game involves reacting, that it was a little stressful for me (I’m used to playing a good offense in my video games) and tough for me to adapt. Here’s a quick list of available combos at Hulk’s disposal
Players wont be able to directly control Hulk as he walks around various landscapes and backdrops in search of evil doers. Instead, tapping on enemies just leisurely hanging out will result in Hulk strolling up to them and initiating a fight. Scattered through backgrounds are items used to power up Hulk and/or regain health, and can be tapped during the games many “walking cutscenes,” or right before a battle with an enemy. Similar to bonus levels in games like Street Fighter (where you have to pummel a car), Hulk can initiate quick battles by tapping on crystal pillars made of ISO-8′s (Avengers Initiative’s form of currency). From there players will be given a set amount of time to wallop the crustal pillar and tap on the ISO-8′s that come popping out.
There are some RPG-like elements to Avenger’s Initiative and defeating opponents results in XP (experience points). You can gain bonus XP by fighting well during a battle and by performing finishing moves (almost like a mini game in themselves). Once leveled up, players can upgrade Hulk’s total health points, stamina (used for blocking), Rage (used for power moves), and damage (self explanatory). It’s pretty much up to the player and his/her’s own fighting style to decide where the points will be distributed. Once you reach higher levels, Hulk gains access to new “Powers” (supermoves), so you can see how it definitely behooves players to do well in battle.
Hulk can also soup up his stats by the use of Augments (crystals of varying levels of power that can be equipped to a slot), and through snazzy alternate costumes. You can either work hard, perform well, and earn enough ISO-8′s to purchase these costumes, or they can also be bought with real life monies through in-app purchases — not by any means necessary, just for those that don’t want to work at powering up their character the hard way.
Graphically, the game looks great. Visuals look crisp on a tiny 720p display, and character models are well detailed featuring a variety of lighting effects and normal mapping (the Skrulls even have individual teeth!). Both the main character and enemies are well animated and don’t have the typical stiff movement plaguing titles of less-funded games in the Play Store. Apparently, there’s some extra visual effects that are enabled on Tegra 3 devices. Things like varying levels of body damage that are represented on enemies, flowing clothing, and even ISO-8 effects. Since I couldn’t actually test the game on my ASUS Transformer Pad Tegra 3 tablet (there’s only a handful of supported devices at launch), I wont be reporting on those aspects at all. There is, however, a nice little comparison shot showing the battle damage portion of the Tegra 3 effects (see below). The only thing I didn’t like about the visuals was the lack of detail in the environments. Textures were often flat and blurry, but this could have something to do with me playing the game on a non-Tegra device.
Avengers Initiative is a fun title that scores high marks in almost every area. Perfect for quick gaming sessions on your smartphone or tablet, the included RPG elements give players something to work towards while keeping things fresh. The in-app purchases are done the right way, and the prospect of even more Marvel super heroes and enemies to be revealed in later updates ensures you’ll be coming back for more. Marvel Games did a slammin’ job with this one. You can download Avengers Initiative right now from the Google Play Store for the introductory price of $5. Still not convinced? Check out my video below for the first 12 minutes of gameplay.