Justice is not served…
A man in a bright red costume speeds around the circumference of the globe before punching another man square in the nose. That’s gotta hurt. The other man reels backward, then quickly pulls out an arrow, which just happens to be of the electric variety, and shoots the first man with it. ‘Stings, doesn’t it?’ he quips. That’s a certain understatement.
Out of nowhere, another man jumps into the fray, producing a sledgehammer of green light, which he uses to beat the man in red about the head. I think we’ve all wanted to do that at one point or another, so let’s not be too judgmental.
Despite what you’re thinking, this isn’t a description of last years Touchgen Christmas party (although it comes mighty close), it’s actually your typical playthrough of ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’, the DC Superhero beat-em-up.
You’ve probably heard the hullabaloo from the recent console release, which as it happens is rather good, so if you’ve had a look at that and are expecting a similar experience on your iPhone or pad, then stop expecting it NOW. RIGHT NOW.
The iOS version differs in that it’s not a straight beat-em-up, in fact, it’s really only a quarter beat-em-up; a ‘beat-em’ if you will. The game is based on assembling a squad from a huge roster of popular DC characters in the form of trading cards then doing battle in various arenas in three-man teams.
If you’re a fan of DC, you’re in for a treat. Everyone’s here – from the big guns like Batman and Superman, to lesser known characters such as Deadshot and Solomon Grundy (Born on a Monday). The presentation and UI artwork is high quality and faithful to source, with accurate depictions of your favourite heroes and villains, but remember, this is all about DC; if you’re a fan of AC/DC, this isn’t the app for you. It’s easy to get confused.
Unfortunately, the world we now live in dictates that every iOS game must shoehorn in some form of IAP like me trying to squeeze into one of my suits from 2003, even if it’s patently obvious that the game would’ve been better suited to a one-off payment. This means some of those classic DC characters are locked away until you grind enough coins to purchase them. I knew something fishy was up when I was given The Flash, Green Arrow and Nightwing to begin the game with. No offence to fans of those guys, but let’s face it: they’re crap…sorry, I mean, not quite as iconic as some of the others. A cursory check revealed that Batman, my favourite superhero, cost upwards of 180,000 coins. I also discovered the game does not dole out 180,000 coins per win. The Flash it is then.
The system employed here just doesn’t seem to fit the subject matter. Each fight costs ‘energy’, run out of energy, and you can’t fight. From a bio mechanical standpoint this makes perfect sense, after all, who can go 12 rounds without eating their Weetabix? But from a videogame perspective, it’s annoying.
Still, each character has a different energy rating, so as long as you employ some smart management, you’ll never be forced to stop playing. As well as purchasing individual character cards, you can use your coinage to buy packs of cards (bronze, silver, gold). The higher the pack, the better the cards within.
Where the combat is concerned, it’s a mixed bag. On the upside, everything looks absolutely gorge – that’s shorthand for ‘gorgeous’, which I probably should’ve just written out longhand considering I just did it anyway. Character models are imposing and beautifully rendered, and if you have a favourite DC buddy, you’ll get a real kick (and a punch, and a green sledgehammer of light) out of seeing them recreated with so much faithful detail on-screen.
The problem is with the actual fighting; this is why I can’t call it a beat-em-up with a clear conscience It’s simplistic – comprising of basic swipes and taps which leave you feeling less in control than you’d like, and unengaging – there’s no character movement save for direct combat (you can’t move backward, forward or jump), and the destructible, multi-level environments of the console version are nowhere to be seen (perhaps asking a bit too much, but the action never zooms out – everything is close-quarters). It all ends up feeling like a missed opportunity, especially as each fighting style so accurately fits the essence of the character. Lacking depth, there’ll be only so much of it you can take.
But a game this well presented, with so much devoted detail can’t ever be that bad. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I get a special kind of thrill whenever I see Batman on my iOS screen, so forgive me if I refrain from giving this a lower than low score. It’s decent enough, and I’m sure I’ll acquire the Dark Knight one day, even if it takes me till the birth of my grand kids to do it. ’Gods Among Us’ comes off as more of a companion app for the console version than a stand alone title, and as it hints so tantalizingly at what could’ve been, that’s the real injustice.