Developer: GAMELOFT
Price: $9.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

It’s a sad fact of video gaming history that licensed movie games are almost always disappointments.  Shallow gameplay, rushed graphics and pedantic storylines typically dominate all but a very select few of these releases. Still, the faithful masses (like me) always hope for the rare title that will break this chain of mediocrity and rise to unexpected greatness.

Iron Man 2 for the iPad, alas, is not one of these games.

Gameloft has created a textbook example of a movie licensed game, and while Iron Man 2 is not out and out bad, per se, it is not inspired or unique in any way. It rather seems as if it were assembled by a committee.

Like a rudimentary puzzle, all of the elements of the 3rd person generic action game genre are present in Iron Man 2.  The plot loosely follows the new film and the first few levels are tutorials for the controls.  After that, the game follows a simple “walk/run/fly/hover here-kill the enemy/protect the innocent-go to the next checkpoint” pattern that anyone who plays video games has seen WAY too many times before.  The tutorial levels actually end up being some of the most fun, as you acclimate yourself to hovering, flying and discharging weapons simultaneously.  And, though my viewpoint of the game is mostly negative, I have to admit to getting a brief thrill when first powering up Shellhead’s booster rockets and flying around town.

All of the controls are on screen, which does allow the developers the ability to change them as the context of the game changes, but even with tutorials it’s not always clear what you are supposed to do in a given situation.  For instance, I became stuck at a screen early in the game where Iron Man has to raise a piece of a fallen building off of an innocent bystander.  The only control on the screen during this sequence is a hand, so it’s obvious you need to touch this icon.  I tried touching it, then touching it and holding it, then double clicking it, but nothing seemed to happen. After several attempts, I finally stumbled upon the fact that I had to continuously click the virtual button until the debris was removed.  There was no sense of discovery or wonder in figuring this out, just frustration.  If the iPad is supposed to represent one thing particularly, it’s the ease of its touchscreen interface.  So much for that in Iron Man 2.

Graphically, the game looks as rushed as it plays.  I realize the iPad is no PS3/Xbox 360, but it is certainly capable of rendering more detail than the blocky buildings and NPCs in this game.  I constantly felt as if I were playing an early, crude PS1 game. Battle Arena Toshindin anyone? The sound effects are all handled quite well, but the voice acting (by sound-a-likes) is marginal at best. I get that Tony Stark is supposed to sound relaxed and bemused generally, but he often sounds downright lethargic in many cases.

As compared to its iPhone brother, the iPad version of the game benefits (as is becoming the defacto standard statement about all iPad software) from the enlarged screen, and navigating Iron Man is certainly easier with this advantage, but other than this I see no reason to prefer one version of the game over the other.  Rather than truly exploit the unique attributes of the iPad, Gameloft’s developers chose to just get the game out in time for the movie’s release. How cool would it have been to have a game where the player is actually inside Tony Stark’s armor, manipulating Iron Man’s HUD from the comfort of the iPad’s expansive screen? Don’t look for anything as inventive as that here.

There are upgrade paths for the Iron Man armor, and various suits with unique abilities to unlock and enhance (including the fan favorite War Machine), but these seem more like afterthoughts than major gameplay changers. Thus, the inclination to replay the game after the brief campaign is negligible.

The bottom line is that you could replace Tony Stark/Iron Man with any other character/villain combination and this game would be the same.  Iron Man could just as easily be a magical flying Smurf fighting the evil minions of Gargamel.  It really doesn’t matter. And that, in the end, is why it’s not worth buying.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, Reviews

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