- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 5, 2014

The First Avenger becomes a mobile Avenger in the third-person adventure Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Gameloft, Rated 12+, reviewed with iPad 3, $2.99).

This official game based loosely on the new movie offers tactical-based action for iOS and Android smart phone and tablet owners by allowing a player to control Marvel Comics‘ legendary hero through over 100 missions.

In the story, a player explores a very inspired, comic-book-looking New York City under attack by familiar Marvel Comics‘ bad guys and their minions, all revealed in a three-quarter, over-the-top perspective view.

During each mission, a player chooses high-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers to go into battle alongside Cap with each offering specialties.

These warriors include troopers, snipers, a heavy-weapons experts and a support specialist that move in unison to automatically attack foes.

Each mission has varied objective that can range from defeating sabotaging enemy camps to saving citizens to disabling power generators and disarming explosives in a set amount of time.

Commanders have two ways to move the squad using either a virtual directional pad in the left corner of the screen or tapping on part of the screen to move the group. Access to a group of icons on the right side to unleash abilities or special powers (a punch or ground smash from Captain America work well) is also always available.

Completed missions and success with the objectives offer a payout of skill points, coins and tokens to use to upgrade supplies (health packs, sniper bullets and grenades to name a few) and attributes of individual squad members.

A player can also combine acquired radiated crystal isotopes (look for hidden suitcase in environments) and assign them to soldiers slots to further upgrade powers of attack speed, range and damage.

The use of coins and tokens, unfortunately, leads to the constant teasing of in-app purchases to keep the squad healthy and well supplied. Shelling out more cash seems a bit disingenuous since a player already ponied up $3 just to enjoy the game.

Still, without a doubt, Captain America and Marvel Comics fans will find plenty reason to dive into the colorful action.

For example, something simple as swiping a finger across the iPad’s touch screen and watching Cap throw his shield is a great start. It flies around to break items and the heads of adversaries targeted.

A player can use his limited supply of tokens to call in Black Widow and the Falcon to aid the team. The heroes jump down from the sky to attack enemy groups for a short amount of time before leaving the battle.

A story by Marvel scribe Christos (Avenger: The Initiative) Gage offers the introduction of such villains as King Cobra, Taskmaster, Winter Soldier and the daughter of the Red Skull.

I also loved the ability to unlock the Captain’s legendary costumes including U.S. Agent Captain America (a mostly black suit), Captain America from the Ultimates comic book series and a World War II version of his outfit from the first movie with each offering a special power to take into battle.

Gorgeous comic-book illustrations, which seem plucked from a Marvel Knights issue, float across the screen to help explain plot.

It looks so authentic that any moment in the action could be clipped as a comic-book panel with even special effects onomatopoeias (“FWOOM” and “KA-BOOM” to name a few that Stan Lee would be proud of) popping up as they Captain delivers the hurt.

In fact, although optimized for the iPhone 5, its cell-shaded, comic-book style graphics demand scrutiny to appreciate the detail. An iPad 3 with retina display using its latest operating system was my choice and gave this old man’s peepers a thrill.

However, despite some spectacular visuals and action, one big drawback (much more annoying than the in-app purchase or the supposed online multiplayer that is basically a “roll the dice,” blind-luck simulation) is the inability to play Captain America: The Winter Soldier unless you are connected to the Internet.

This is not a welcomed shift in mobile gaming strategy and makes paying for the title with this restriction nearly ridiculous.