“ Manufacturer: Gameloft / Type: iPhone Game „
Another Hollywood blockbuster, another tie-in game. Don't run for the hills in panic, though because this one, whilst not perfect is actually pretty good.
It is apparently based around key scenes from the new film although if you've not seen the film this won't be immediately apparent and, the plot doesn't actually hang together terribly well or make a huge amount of sense.* It feels like a sequence of unconnected missions which see you flying around various landscapes fighting off the bad guys. The weak story line, however, doesn't detract too much and the game remains fun to play.
* (note: I've now seen the film and, in fact, this game has only the vaguest connection to it, so it's just the game's plot that's a bit rubbish)
The missions are relatively simple and easy for anyone - casual or seasoned gamers alike - to pick up. Generally, they involve making your way from one location to another via a series of checkpoints, battling or avoiding enemies along the way. Occasionally, you have to destroy one of the film's main bad guys as a kind of end of level boss fight, which provides a bit of variety. A couple of more puzzle-based sub-games add further variety, although to be honest, these are quite weak and don't really add much to the game. The missions themselves are good fun and can be quite challenging. Even though each level has quite a similar format and can occasionally be a touch repetitive, the game is good at maintaining interest levels and I have found myself happily playing in 30-45 minute chunks.
Where the game does miss a trick is in making things too mission based. It's a lot of fun flying around the city but everything is rather too structured. The mission-based game play doesn't really give you much time to explore, since you are often racing against the clock to accomplish your goals. The game might have been better off adopting a Grand Theft Auto style approach, where you could choose to either undertake specific missions or just go around exploring the city with no specific goal in mind. This would have made it a lot more fun as the player could decide their own priorities.
This focus on a mission based approach adds further weaknesses. Firstly, there is the traditional one that in order to progress, you need to complete the previous mission. This can be very frustrating if you get stuck on a particular level as it effectively blocks any further progress.
It also adds another problem: thanks to the (over) reliance on missions, the action is constantly broken up by cut-scenes explaining the plot. It's no exaggeration to say that for about every 3 minutes of actual game play, there is a minute of cut-scenes. Worse, these don't just occur at the start or end of missions, but also in the middle of them. Just as you think you are progressing well towards your target, up pops yet another cut-scene interrupting the action. At first I thought this would only affect the early levels, acting as a built-in tutorial, but several missions in, there is still not sign of them abating. It does become rather frustrating and stops the game from building any momentum. True, you can skip them, but they still break up the action and destroy any sense of atmosphere.
Graphics-wise things are very impressive; indeed; amongst the best I have seen so far on the iPhone. The character animations are smooth and look like their on-screen counterparts. When you are flying high above the city, or swooping between buildings there is a genuine sense of speed and this is one of the most fun elements (which is again, why it's a pity you can't just fly around for fun). Graphics are beautifully detailed and fluid and no matter how much is going on, there is never any slow down. Cut-scenes (although too frequent) are also well presented.
There are a few issues surrounding the camera angles, which occasionally place objects and or your character so that your view is completely blocked. You can alter the angle by by dragging on the touch screen, but a couple of times this hasn't worked and the camera angle has been such that I have been trapped and unable to escape from a situation and left with no other option but to quit and start again. This is possibly the game's most annoying feature, but thankfully one which doesn't happen too often.
The sound, too, is of the highest quality. A whole range of thumping tunes (taken from the film) play throughout the game and really get the adrenalin pumping. The sound effects are also very faithful to the film and using Iron Man's pulse beam makes a particularly satisfying noise. It's slightly disappointing that the film's stars couldn't be bothered doing voice-over duties for this officially-licensed product, but their stand-ins actually do a pretty impressive job of imitating their on-screen counter-parts. The actor voicing Tony Stark/Iron Man in particular is so accurate that I had to check the in-game credits to make sure that it really wasn't Robert Downey Jr.
Of course, the excellent sound and graphics do take its toll on your poor iPhone's battery, so if you're planning a long gaming session, you might want to have your charger handy.
In a game in which so many of the missions are based around time limits, it was crucial that a decent control level was provided. Thankfully, this need has been recognised. Iron Man himself is controlled using a virtual control pad located in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. This is pretty small so doesn't obscure too much of the screen and is also transparent, so things can't "hide" behind it. It works really well and proves highly responsive, giving you a real sense of control over your character. On the opposite side of the screen, a number of icons appear, allowing Iron Man to perform a number of different functions, such as fire weapons, punch enemies and so on. As with the virtual joystick, these are both transparent, and are also pretty responsive. The only real problem is that when you have a lot of them on-screen it can be a little difficult in the heat of the action to remember which one you need to press.
Despite a lack of freedom in the design of the levels and an annoying amount of cut-scenes, Iron Man 2 is a lot of fun to play. At £3.99, it's one of the iPhone's more expensive titles, but it has enough in terms of game play and polish to justify that tag. Hats off to Gameloft for turning out a game licence which both captures the look and feel of the film, and is genuinely entertaining.
© Copyright SWSt 2010