Fans of Marvel Comics' mighty mutants relive their fight for survival in the mobile adventure Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past (Glitchsoft, Rated 9+, reviewed on iPad 2, $2.99).
Before the latest X-Men live-action movie ever existed, the time-traveling tale of the human race's attempt to control the Homo Superior species (using massive robots called Sentinels) came to light in John Byrne and Chris Claremont's classic story arc (issues Nos. 141 and 142) of the comic-book series Uncanny X-Men.
This colorful epic built for the iPad and iPhone pays beautiful homage to the acclaimed tale by adapting key parts of the books and expanding the story into a retro, side-scrolling, game.
Within 23 missions, the action offers a player interchangeable control of such stars as Wolverine, Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat), Colossus, Cyclops and Scarlet Witch in their vintage costumes.
Of course, fans of the books know the Sentinels eventually control the world in apocalyptic fashion, and its up to Wolverine and Kitty Pryde to time travel, assemble the X-Men, stop an assassination and save the human and mutant races.
A player picks a mutant for each mission (plastered on a wanted poster ripped right from the cover of issue No. 141) and selects his costume, performs upgrades and reads about his powers before exploring such locals as a decimated New York City (complete with mutant internment camps), the famed X-Mansion, Asteroid M and even the Savage Lands.
With a goal to escape the levels as well as collect as many blue XP orbs as possible to spend on upgrading powers, it's a platform-jumping, claw-slashing, fist-punching maelstrom against obstacles and foes that include armed thugs and bots as well as those multistory-tall Sentinels.
Simple controls on the touch-screen allow a character to move forward and back, jump and unleash an attack with a simple tap. Tap and swipe (using the virtual directional pad) during an attack to deliver a special move such as a steely uppercut from Colossus or a destructive optic blast from Cyclops.
X-Men historians will love the detail during the action.
Be it maneuvering an older Wolverine (with greying wings of hair and that brown biker jacket), using Shadowcat's miniature dragon Lockheed to hang out by her side to fight enemies or a boss battle against Nimrod (a descendant of the Sentinels first appearing in Uncanny X-Men No. 191), its nostalgic visuals match the game play.
In fact, the entire package will make an older player feel like he was teleported back to the days when the X-Men flourished on the Sega Genesis system, but newer fans won't be as enchanted.
The stupidity of enemies, monotony of some levels, occasional meandering of minions and chronic load times as well as some suspect game mechanics, especially when jumping can get frustrating.
However, the X-Men sequential-art homage always envelops the game screens with motion, comic-style animated scenes, illustrated text blurbs and the chance to collect Lore icons in levels to view classic comic-book covers and character biographies.
Despite my few complaints, Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past is an wrist-aching, memory-flooding event for the iPad owner smitten with Marvel's mutants.
Additionally, Glitchsoft offers a breath of fresh air in a mobile-gaming market, a place always looking to gouge the player. The game contains no in-app purchases and requires no Internet connection once downloaded. That's right. For the fantastic price of $3, a comic-book fan gets to take part in a pivotal story in the lives of their favorite X-Men whenever they want and are never pestered to drop more cash. Heck, they even get the promise of more unlockable characters — Magneto, Polaris and Storm, to be specific — in a future download with no extra costs attached.
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