Review: Marvel Run Jump Smash!
Oooh, some superhero action on Windows Phone? Play as pretty much any of Marvel's Avengers? With some onomatopoeic action in the title? Count me in! Perhaps I shouldn't have been so hasty to review this following Steve's news posting this weekend, because Marvel Run Jump Smash is an ugly, merciless slice of code.
Version Reviewed: 184.108.40.206
As for Steve's question in our launch coverage of not being able to use 'Avengers' in the title, perhaps the thorny issue that Brian Clements, John Steed and Cathy Gale have stopped Marvel having blanket usage of the name in the United Kingdom? But I digress.
In "Marvel Run Jump Smash" (RJS), you take the role of one of the human leaders of S.H.I.E.L.D., either Nick Fury (that's Samuel L. Jackson's character) or Maria Hill (the, err, gender balancing plot device). Once they start running along the screen from left to right, they won't stop.
To help them avoid the obstacles you have two controls - a jump key on the left side of the screen, and a 'shoot gun' on the right hand side of the screen. I love that once you are taught these, you are then introduced to a 'minion' that you cannot shoot, so you have to jump up and land on their head. I wonder where they got that platform game mechanic from?
Anyway, the hallmark of a good side-scroller is that there aren't a huge number of controls, so I'm not going to complain too much here - but I will point out that once the 'super power' is activated and you have another button to contend with, it can get a bit fraught on-screen.
What is more worrying from a gaming sense of view is that the over-sized characters in RJS leave much to be desired in terms of gameplay. To keep everything to scale and have a sense of speed, you have very little time to react to the upcoming coins and barriers. Your jump will take you more than half way up the screen (you can double jump for extra height) and this smaller size feels limiting to game.
I'm not going to fault the graphics during the game. They stay clear and lag free while you are running, with lots of laser blasts, explosions, lightning, and effects on display, and they never actually get in the way, block your view, or hinder the playing of the game.
At the same time, I had a rash of empty dialog boxes, repeated yes/no requests, and a rather temperamental UI in the menus, leading me to wonder how much testing this app has had in the real world.
If this was all there was to the game, then I'd be looking at a slightly above average score for a flawed implementation of a basic concept. But it's not.
You see, you get the chance to assemble your Avengers team. As you run along, you might see an icon in the sky which you can jump and grab. This replaces Nick or Maria with one of the Avenger heroes that you have unlocked (Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man, and The Hulk are unlocked as you start, others will become available to you as you amass the coins you collect while running through each game).
They also have the handy ability of dying, but letting you return to your S.H.I.E.L.D. character. In essence this gives you an extra 'life' for the short period that the Avenger is on the screen. It's a nice game mechanic, but as you are limited to using the Avenger only when the game gives you a pick-up, and you have a fixed time with them, it's an artificial addition.
Hand me control of being able to call them up when I want to, because that tiny addition of strategy and decision making could have given the game a bit more freedom and a sense of the player being in control. As it is, everything feels pre-determined, the larger graphics make the level design feel weakened to make sure you are not caught out if your reaction speed is slow.
All of this counts against RJS, but even then I could maybe forgive the developers.
RJS! has two issues that make it a hard (but not impossible) game to recommend.
The first is that it has no trial mode. There are a number of side-scrolling infinite runners out there (such as the rather fabulous Jetpack Joyride) and getting the right balance of speed, control, and replayability is a must. That sweet spot is not always the same for everyone playing a game, and a trial mode gives you a bit of confidence that "yes, this is the game for you". Without even a 'play for just two minutes' aggressive trial, you are left with the app store description listing (and the occasional reviewer) to decide if you want to invest.
I know it's only £1.29/$1.99 and less than the price of a coffee, but it's far too easy to get burned by these small downloads. The mental cost of "I've paid for it" is very high. And I would have the lingering suspicion that any movie tie-in game is not going to be much cop.
The second issue is that RJS requires an online connection to play the game. Really? While I understand that I am playing on a mobile phone, the assumption that it will always have connectivity is a rather arrogant one. What about a commute on the London Underground? A long airline flight? Or out walking in the green and pleasant valleys where even 3G dare not go?
There's no reason that I can think of that demands the game goes online and stays online. It's not a multiplayer title, and if the concern is the 'security' of the in-game freemium currency, then surely this can be a check say once every twenty-four hours, and still allow offline play? Other titles can manage this, why not RJS? At least it has the decency to say this at the top of the app directory listing.
The pair of twists above leaves a rather stale feeling in my mouth. As I've noted, RJS is not the only side-scroller out there that asks you to collect coins, jump, and use special power-ups. There is a certain frissom of excitement that you are playing as one of the Avengers, but that does not last long. The game lacks the flow I've seen in other titles, it lacks the addictive nature that keeps you playing through frustration, and there are too many silly errors in the UI on top of the increased battery demands called for by the online requirement.
The Avengers might have worked out how to do summer blockbuster movies, but they haven't worked out how to develop a compelling mobile game or a respectful mobile environment. This is one to pass over, I'm not recommending this.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at