Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
One of the first comics I can remember buying with my own money as child, purchased from a newsstand near my great-grandmother’s apartment, was an issue of Marvel’s Contest of Champions. Contest of Champions was groundbreaking in a couple of different areas: it was Marvel’s first publication released in a “limited series” format, and it was also one of the first attempts to blatantly strip out any attempt at more nuanced story arc by instead offering three issues of heroes clashing against one another in page after page of epic battles as cosmic puppet masters tugged at their strings.
Despite revisiting the concept a couple of times in intervening years, nothing ever quite captured that same spectacle that my five year old self felt while leafing through those pages. However, Marvel and Kabam are dragging the old chestnut out of mothballs again in the form of a head-to-head fighting game. And despite a couple of issues, it’s actually not the worst licensed game I've seen.
Contest of Champions has one glaring flaw, it’s that the fighting itself (which IS the meat of the game) isn’t terribly deep or tactical. Eschewing virtual d-pads and buttons for taps, holds, and swipes on the left and right of the screen, there initially seems to be a bit more depth to the fisticuffs than one would think. But before long it becomes apparent that the same tactic of spamming attacks until the opponent blocks, back up and block until their combo is done, then return to spamming until your special move is charged and ready will work just about every time. I didn’t really have huge expectations going in, but a bit more variety in fighting styles or tactics would have mitigated the grind just a bit.
And grind you will. Contest of Champions has the usual free-to-play tropes of timed energy refreshment and unlockable characters that can be leveled-up using items dropped by completing mission arcs. There are the usual timed “special events” and all of the tricks you’ve come to loathe to get you to part with a few bucks to smooth the ride. Though by and large, it isn’t too invasive with them, which is nice. The back end menus could use a bit of streamlining though, as the interface there looks a bit cluttered.
At least Contest of Champions LOOKS nice. The characters are big and beefy, shining like freshly unpacked action figures. Backgrounds are detailed and the animations are smooth. Even on older hardware the game doesn’t suffer much in the way of slowdown or chug, which is a small miracle these days.
Superheroes bashing one another in the face is certainly appealing in its own right, and the “gotta catch ‘em all” types will doubtlessly obsess over snagging their favorite heroes and watching their roster swell. It’s just a shame the actual fighting isn’t as much of a draw as it could be. But if you can get past that, Contest of Champions can provide a decent occasional distraction.