REVIEW: X-MEN FOR IPHONE

Rewind to 1992 for a moment, three games thunder onto the arcade scene- Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, Mortal Kombat, and X-Men. Joining the likes of The Simpsons and TMNT: Turtles in Time, arcade cabinets were still the kings of gaming.

For those of you who might not recall, the X-Men cabinet was comprised of two screens, side by side, and controls for up to six players simultaneously. The cabinet seemed well ahead of its time. I remember fighting my way through the gathered crowd just to be the next to drop his quarter in (and hope I wasn’t stuck as Dazzler). Now the app store supplies the same game for download on the iOS platform.

Konami launched their app with a $2.99 price point, which seemed fair, if the initial offering had not been broken. Many people reported that when playing the game the characters would forever fall through the screen, or the app would just crash. Konami apologized on the app’s store page and promised an update with the fixes would arrive soon. They stated that there were not any known issues with the game for the iPad, so I spent the cash. To my surprise, the app did not work for me either. I rebooted my system, re-downloaded, sync’d, anything I could think of but the game just crashed on the opening animation. Finally, on my last attempt, well over a dozen plus at that point, the app did work and there haven’t been any problems since. Still, I was disappointed that the developer would almost knowingly release a broken game. In my frustration, I even clicked the “App Support” button on the app’s store page. This took me to Konami’s support page that did not contain any information on the game. Reviewers’ comments in the app store were generally more helpful than the developer‚Äôs page.

Trying to set this aside, here’s how X-Men stacks up.

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Game Mechanics

X-Men‘s gameplay seems directly ported, only differing in the transition to the touch screen. The three-button setup (attack, jump, mutant power) and direction pad all function fine. A button sensitivity adjustment might have been nice. Although, after the first ten minutes I was craving a joystick and some maskable buttons.

Returning to this title are the original character choices: Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Dazzler. The player receives two to seven lives, depending on the difficulty setting (this is the only difference in difficulties) and a never ending supply of side-scrolling enemies to bash their way through. Noticeably missing are any ingame items- neither weapons, health nor extra lives. Now, while this is true to the arcade release, it makes me wonder if their absence was a design decision  or unimaginative programming. Every use of your mutant power reduces your health. The one change from arcade is the inclusion of one free mutant power use when you health gets too low to normally use the power. You can win more of these free uses by defeating bosses.

Nowadays developers walk a fine line between respecting an original and criticism for milking the same one-trick pony. Even keeping that in mind, at times it feels as though Konami was going out of their way to do as little as possible on this release.

Game Mechanics        Score   2.5 / 5


Ambience

The levels and enemies in this game are exactly as I remember them. In most cases this is a pleasant occurrence, but at almost twenty years old, X-Men is starting to show its age. Konami avoided any graphical updates to this title. While at first the dated graphics are quaint and nostalgic, they fail to support the game over the long haul. Many of your enemies are simple palette swaps, and bosses are even recycled. This design might have captured quarters in the 90s, but fails to recapture that magic today.

Ambience                    Score   1.5 / 5


Fun Factor

My memories of this arcade classic are wonderful; it pains me to be honest here. The nostalgia factor had me opening my wallet before even reading the reviews. After the initial frustration of dealing with a broken game, the developer also let down the fans of this classic by failing to give that little extra, which after twenty years the game rightfully deserves. You can select your difficulty, and after beating the game, you can select your start level. There are trophies to be won and posted for viewing through the Game Center, but none of the challenges are overly difficult. Even obtaining the trophies do not unlock anything extra. The player has an infinite number of continues, so even the difficulty, in a way, has been stripped. Once you beat the game, you can continue to play, but you just start over from the beginning, and unless you are chasing a high body count, rather pointless.

There is an online play option, with up to four players locally. This does recapture some of the old magic, as you yell commands and jeers at each other. Yet, many players expressed a desire for play to extend beyond the local network, just as many other complained about excessive lag in their local games.

Fun Factor                  Score   2.5 / 5

Guidance

This side-scroller, as most are, is self-explanatory. A simple three-page help section is included at the main menu. There’s not any need to seek guidance elsewhere.

Guidance                     Score   N/A


Final Thoughts

Above and beyond all else, I thinks it‚Äôs close to reprehensible to knowingly release a broken game to the public. Now, there isn’t any direct evidence that Konami was aware of the bugs, but the pervasive nature of the issues leads you to wonder how they couldn’t have known.

Nostalgia can be a powerful tool for developers to leverage old titles into new cash. Nostalgia should not be an excuse for laziness. Unfortunately, X-Men feels like a developer’s afterthought, as though someone turned around and said, “Hey, I know how we can make a quick buck!”

Final  Score   in 1992:           5 / 5

in 2011:           2.17 / 5

Written by Andrew

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REVIEW: X-MEN FOR IPHONE , 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

3 Comments

  1. Ergo-D says:

    I love it for the PS3. I would go with that version. Playing it on a large widescreen TV definitely keeps the nostalgia alive from the arcade days.

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  2. Erica says:

    Bummer. Thanks for reviewing this! At least Street Fighter is timeless :)

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  3. Bryan says:

    What a shame, this is why sometimes memories are best left as memories. I often find these remakes or arcade ports don’t live up to the fun I had with them when I was a kid.

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