Some of you may remember 1992. It was a more whimsical time when arcades were still around (although not heavily used) and consoles ruled the gaming world. Back then, I was a comic book collector and one of my favorite titles was The Uncanny X-Men, a Marvel brand that’s since been turned into movies, TV shows and everything in between.
In those times we all were waiting anxiously for an X-Men video game to show up on the consoles or in the arcades, and finally it was here. X-Men became a big hit in my town, and I remember spending many an hour slapping joysticks trying to go further and further in the game. But now that it’s available for the iPhone, is it worth the purchase? Does it stand up to the test of time? Let’s find out.
The Time That Was
Let’s take a quick moment and reflect on what was out on the market in 1992. Back then I had a Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo in the living room, and most of my time was spent trying to outrace Sonic or get to the next level in the latest Mario game. We had an arcade center at the mall, but it kept getting smaller and smaller until a few years later when it would close down for good. This was the time when the better the game the higher the “bit” rating, and we all had to have the latest stuff. Good times for sure.
This means that we hadn’t yet entered the world of 3D gaming, so what was out there was limited by technology. That’s one of the first things that strikes me when I fired up the X-Men port to my iPhone; 3D back then isn’t the same as 3D today. X-Men is just a simple side scroller with depth control issues and weird graphics, just like all my favorites of the era.
In fact, even this updated version still shows the scars of that generation. Although the controls are overlaid in Retina display quality graphics, the game itself still looks almost blurry, just like it would when viewed while standing in front of a seven-foot-tall box. It’s awesome.
Although the plot of the game is apparently loosely based on a TV show pilot, none of that really matters. You play as one of six characters from the comic, each with a mutant power of their own. Thing is, none of their mutant powers really translate to what they actually do in the comic, it’s more like a “wipe everyone out nearby” button that you use when you’re desperate.
Anyways, Magneto has done some bad things (which is shocking, I know), and now you have to stop him and a band of sentinels and other mutants baddies from doing whatever bad thing he’s got going on. The plot is kind of loose here, is I guess what I’m saying.
X-Men is a button masher in every sense of the word. There are just three buttons to control in the app anyways: one for jump, one for attack and the last being the aforementioned “wipe everyone out” button that is supposed to be a map of the character’s mutant powers. Although each character has their own strengths, really it’s inconsequential who you pick; everyone does pretty much the same thing.
There’s no real combo moves here that I can discern, just lots of punching and a jump now and then. The levels are pretty much what you’d expect, with lots of side scrolling, bad guys popping out from the sides of the screen and a boss fight at the end. That’s the gist of it, really.
A new wrinkle with this version of the game though is the addition of multiplayer, something which brings the arcade experience home. I didn’t have an opportunity to test it, but according to the reviews in the App Store, it’s broken and should be fixed. Your experience may vary, so consider this before you make your purchase.
But Is It Fun?
I asked myself that when I was playing, which is odd because I shouldn’t have to ask, I should just experience it. What struck me instead was just how bad this game was. Even by 1992 standards, this isn’t the X-Men game that fans of the time wanted, and it certainly isn’t now. So if that’s the case, then why have I given it such a high score?
For me, this game is about two things, starting with the nostalgia. I remember plunking quarters into the X-Men machine when I was a kid, and it was a lot of fun for me at the time to play as Wolverine, kicking butt and taking names. The second part is a bit more abstract.
Although this game is bad, it’s that very fact that makes it so fun. It’s like going to a big concert and having a crappy opening act — you know the good stuff is out there, so why not enjoy yourself with this beforehand? It’s quick and easy to play, doesn’t require any complicated thought processes and mashing buttons can be a blast. That’s what I really like about X-Men, which not everyone will agree with.
X-Men isn’t the game for you. Well, probably not, anyways, unless you’re the type of gamer who really loved the arcades the way I did when I was younger. Or maybe you’re the hipster guy who loves reveling in the past and making fun of it at the same time. Or you just love the X-Men so much that you’ve got to play every version of the game imaginable, no matter where it came from.
Again, nostalgia plays a high point in my rating for this game. I love going back to that time when I was free of a mortgage payment and bills; back when I was an innocent kid riding my bike to the mall with a pocket full of quarters and a smile on my face.
So is it for you? Probably not. But I love it, and maybe you’re in that category too.