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Avengers Initiative

Score: 80%
ESRB: 9+
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Developer: Wideload Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Fighting

Graphics & Sound:

Avengers Initiative is a multi-release game that starts off with the player controlling the Hulk as he pounds his way through a long series of enemies that, unfortunately, can get a bit tedious and repetitive after a while.

At first glance, Avengers Initiative appears to be a visually impressive game. Both the environments and the characters appear to be highly detailed complex models that should take more processing power than the iPad has on hand.

Once the gameplay starts though, it is easy to see how the developers could have cut a few corners to make the game less processor-intensive than it could be. For one, the highly detailed surroundings are confined to a small area and the player is allowed only a narrow viewing area. As a result, the whole world doesn't need to be rendered, and given the fairly-fixed position of the camera, most of the world doesn't even have to modeled. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the detailed world around the Hulk was essentially a texture map applied to the inside of a dome with the viewer at just the right angle to sell the depth of the world. Whatever trickery may or may not be going on behind the scenes, Avengers Initiative looks impressive and pulls off the look of a console-based game.

Avenger Initiative's audio, on the other hand, feels a little flat. While the voices portraying characters like Hulk, Nick Fury and some of the enemies sound like the part, the acting often feels stiff and forced. As for the game's background music, it gets the job done, but is uninspiring. In my opinion, you should turn the subtitles on and turn the volume down.


Gameplay:

Avengers Initiative is a action-RPG game that focuses primarily on fights, but in a way that wouldn't work well on non-touchscreen devices. Avengers actually takes most of its gameplay style cues from Chair Entertainment's Infinity Blade series.

When you enter a fight, you are more or less playing a reaction game where you try to dodge or block your enemies' attacks and strike when their misses leaves them vulnerable. The different dodges are done by tapping the left or right arrows on the sides of the screens while the icon in the middle is for a block. If you time your evasions right, then you can swipe your finger all over your enemy to land a barrage of punches and deal damage. It feels odd at first, but as a friend pointed out, it is the same gameplay model as Punch-Out!!, just with your finger rather than a gamepad.

Avengers Initiative offers a bland story about escaped super villains. Hulk is sent out into the world to track these cons and beat them into submission so that S.H.I.E.L.D. can pick them up and return them to prison. While you aren't actively fighting, you can look around your environment and tap on various pickups like medpacks, augments and ISO-8 (more on those later), as well as tap on enemies that are present to start a fight and tap on parts of the screen that walks Hulk to the next location in the map.

Avengers Initiative is a repetitive game that has you in a constant cycle of "fight, look around, go to the next location and fight" again, but there is enough of an RPG element to the game to keep pushing you forward.

The currency of Avengers is a mineral called ISO-8. These can be found in the between-fight locations and are awarded to you at the end of fights. With these you can buy stat modifiers called Augments, various types of medpacks to be used while in a fight, new moves and even costumes that do everything from modify stats, to add extra ISO-8, and to increase the chances of medpack drops.


Difficulty:

Avengers Initiative has an odd difficulty curve. Early fights teach you what you need to do and can be finished pretty easily, but it isnít long before you find the enemies you are facing are way more powerful than you can handle. This means you have two options available to you if you want to proceed; grind through old enemies to level up, or buy augments, costumes and even levels in order to make yourself stronger.

The problem with the first option is that it tends to get tedious. If you find yourself beaten, you start the game over. Sure you keep your various stats and customization, but you have to work your way through the chain of enemies again before reaching your previously overly-powerful foe, and hopefully youíve leveled up enough this time around to make it through. Avengers Initiative does offer a few branching paths, so each journey through the locations doesnít have to be the same, but there arenít that many different directions to choose and it wonít take long before youíve exhausted all paths.

Because the aforementioned approach can get tedious, it seems like the game is pushing the player a little too hard to spend money on more ISO-8 so you can buy more augments or health packs. Iím all for micro-transactions; it is a great business model that works really hard, but this game just seems to push a little too hard to spend money for my liking.


Game Mechanics:

Avengers Initiativeís simplified combat makes it easy to control the Hulk, but I found one of my biggest problems was finding the best way to hold the iPad while playing the game. If I had the tablet on a table, then I found myself stooping over the screen, but able to use both hands to get Hulk out of the way of danger. If, on the other hand, I needed to keep the iPad in my hands, I could still use my thumbs for the dodging, but tapping the block button or slashing my finger across the enemy in order to land punches dictated that I needed to keep one hand free and the iPad held or balanced in my other. It just never really felt comfortable. Iíve played quite a few iPad games, but I never really found myself so conscious about how I was holding the device and what hand/ fingers/ thumbs were being used to control the game.

Avengers Initiative has a lot of potential. Hulk does what he does best, and there are a lot of things for him to smash, but Iím curious to see how the future installments with the rest of the Avengers play out. I can see characters like Iron Man and Thor using just as much brute force as the others, but if the game is going to feature a character like Hawkeye or Black Widow or even Captain America, it doesnít seem like it could have the same feel.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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