Developer: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Much like its namesake team of ragtag misfits, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon is kind of weird and quirky. You see, while the game’s release date is clearly set to build hype for the upcoming feature film (which hits theaters in just about about two weeks) it’s not solely tied to the movie’s feel or continuity. Instead, it’s a rather strange mash-up of elements, sporting both movie-based character designs and story beats, as well as numerous nods to the team’s greater history and place in the comic-based side of the Marvel Universe. But does playing to both sides dilute the overall experience? And is it even a worthwhile game to begin with? Read on, True Believers!

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon straddles a few different genres as well. It’s a little bit action-RPG, a touch of arena combat, and a dash of side-scrolling beat-’em-up (minus the scrolling). Players assemble a team of characters from their roster of unlocked Guardians, Guardians-adjacent affiliates, and even antagonists in some cases (though they can only be used in the wave-clearing Arena mode), and smash their way through screen after screen of bad guys. Characters are controlled by drawing lines from them to their destination (when moving) or target (when attacking enemies or aiding allies).

The whole affair is framed by some comic-styled story nuggets, which are stylized and cartoony, but without being cutesy to the point of growing unappealing (I love Rocket’s constant “I’m getting fed up with this” facial expression). A quick check of the credits revealed that Dan Abnett (who co-created this iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy, along with former writing partner Andy Lanning) was listed with a writing credit. This was a pleasant revelation, though not especially shocking, as the cutscenes all felt quite right to longtime fans of the comics.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon

While the moment-to-moment action is exciting enough, it does get very repetitive and grindy. New characters unlock periodically and old characters level up and gain new powers, which changes the fight-to-fight dynamic some, but it doesn’t fully smooth away the rough edges of the basic gameplay. Also, the touch-and-drag interface can make selecting a specific, chibi-styled Guardian problematic when they get all clustered up in the midst of a big fracas. Perhaps some sort of button to tab through the currently selected characters would be a good idea? Also, some of the game’s UI elements could be more responsive or easier to interact with; sometimes scrolling around item or character menus can prove difficult. Additionally, the game suffered some occasional freezing and more than a few crashes when playing it on my iPad 2, though I’m unsure if those issues persist across newer hardware or not.

Still, there’s a fair chunk of content to play through and unlock here, provided you can stomach the grind. I hesitate to drag out the old chestnut “fans of the genre/property” but Guardians/Cosmic Marvel fans will probably enjoy the hell out of this to a much greater degree than someone who had never heard of Rocket Raccoon prior to seeing trailers for the movie. However, there’s plenty of good, simple fun on offer in Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon, regardless of one’s specific level of fanboy-ism.

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