Marvel Contest Of Champions Hands-On NYCC Impressions: An Intuitive And Gorgeous Fighter For Your Mobile Device [NEW TRAILER]

By Steve Buja , Updated Oct 13, 2014 10:59 AM EDT
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The Marvel booth was, unsurprisingly, one of the busiest at this year's New York Comic Con. Every five minutes or so, there was another new announcement about this comic book or that interactive hyper-reality 4D experience. The usual, really. Dotted around the fairly large piece of real estate were several iPads showing off the next Marvel game, Contest of Champions. The colors were too shiny; we simply had to try it.

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Marvel Contest of Champions is a new fighting title coming out in early December for iOS tablets and phones. The demo featured was rather robust and I believe gives a very good impression as to what the final product will be like. Visually, the game is quite stunning. To think that we can now play games of tist high quality on our phones and other smart devices still amazes me. It seems like it is a thing that should not be. The colors pop, the movement is fairly well done (more on that) and Contest of Champions appears to be not 'a phone game' but a 'game game'.

Nor will the app take up much room, leaving you plenty of space for all those selfies. Contest of Champions is, according to the employees, about 200 megabytes.

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Two champions enter, one champion leaves. I had the pleasure to try out the Quest mode, in which you select a team of heroes and travel through a campaign-like overworld map, battling other heroes or villains along the way. My team consisted of Wolverine, Iron Man, Vision, The Scarlet Witch and Gamora, because Guardians gotta represent. You can mix and match from amongst 25 different characters from all aspects of the Marvel Universe, with more to come.

The controls are quite simple. Tap the right part of the screen for a light attack, hold down right for a heavy attack, swipe right to dash, swipe left to dodge and hold down left to block. Hitting and being hit fills up a power bar which allows you to perform one of three special moves (depending on how much the bar is filled up). If the controls felt a bit unresponsive, I think it was largely due to my insane tapping overloading the system. Overall, the fights play out largely the same. Dash, hit, attack, block, dodge, attack, attack, attack, special. Repetitive and short, yes.

While you can play a mobile game for hours and hours, they are designed around short play sessions. There are some hopes to create a more robust move set, so that there can be greater variety for combos and skills, but the version 1.0 entry is simple, intuitive and should be fun for kids. Which eight year-old doesn't want to smash Ronan in the face?

The fighting mechanics are designed around a rock, paper, scissor type class system. Each character is given a specific class, such as Mutant, Cosmic or Magic to name a few, and certain classes have an advantage over certain other classes. Like Pokemon. This does not mean you'll automatically win these fights, but it is can be helpful in determining which of your characters to use in any given fight. Damage persists after each battle, though, so you'll be forced to mix and match as you go along. Don't worry, you can heal them up if you've gotten the appropriate item.

The quest matches were single elimination. There is also a versus mode that was not shown off, which will be the more traditional 'two out of three' style we've come to expect.

Yes, the game is free to play with In-App Purchases for both items and advancement. You start off with a certain core set of characters and unlock them through advancing the quest modes, but you can purchase them for a nominal fee if you do not feel like waiting. Items, such as medical kits, can be bought the same way.

Marvel does hope to not simply expand the roster with new characters, but create different sub-sets of already established characters. For instance, Scarlet Witch is currently a Magic sub-class; but she can easily be a Mutant, too. They would introduce an alternate version, with different costume and a whole new set of special moves to accommodate this. Black suited Spider-man! Any and all of Iron Man's armor series! Heck, get female Thor in there, too!

There will be an online leaderboard and the eventual inclusion of online battles against friends and strangers.

I played on a newer version iPad, which worked beautifully. However, I can see it being tricky on any non-iPhone 6+. The screen size could become busy fast and with the constant pressing, you'll look like you're fighting your own hand.

Overall, Marvel Contest of Champions was a perfectly fine experience. It plays well, it looks pretty and should make for a quick and simple 'pick up and play' title for kids and adults. Marvel is quickly taking over pretty much every entertainment medium there is; soon, all video games will be Marvel video games. I can't say that's the worst thing.

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