You know a new game is showing promise when the only thing stopping you from playing is your battery running out. Marvel Contest of Champions could be my new obsession.
However, if free to play business models turn you off, the fast and slick combat housed within probably won't be enough to see you through its gacha approach to building your roster of heroes.
Taking loose inspiration from the Marvel Comics mini-series also called Contest of Champions, the plot here sees an assortment of Marvel heroes and villains brainwashed to take part in 'The Contest'.
This flimsy framework is good enough for what we have here though - a one-on-one beat 'em up blended with a blind box collectathon framework.
Earth's (and elsewhere's) mightiest heroes
The more you fight, the more heroes and villains you can enlist, and the more you can power them up to take on increasingly more challenging opponents.
The fighting here is the real star of the show. With a control scheme tailored for touchscreens, fighting is fast, intuitive and satisfying, with single-round fights typically lasting less than a minute.
The downside is that each fighter feels mostly the same, with few character-specific tactics needed. But a smart ‘rock, paper, scissors' feel to the gameflow ensures that fights remain fluid and exciting.
While Marvel Contest of Champions doesn't have the depth to compete with dedicated fighters like Street Fighter X Tekken Mobile, this simplicity lets repetition set in fairly quickly, which seems to be acknowledged in-game through a series of wait timers.
Guardians of the gashapon
An admittedly-reasonable energy meter keeps your progress steady throughout the singleplayer modes. Versus mode stings a bit more though, since each of your combatants must wait two hours after competing online before they can fight again.
Of course, you can pay to continue if you're impatient. It's annoying when you're on a roll, but easy to forgive if Marvel Contest of Champions isn't the only game you're playing.
Far more annoying is the gacha (aka blind box) approach to acquiring more characters. Complete a full quest or a versus match and you'll be awarded with a crystal.
Opening these up through an admittedly snazzy interface gives you a shot at getting a new hero, but the odds here seem pretty stacked against you.
Other problems could be deal breakers for you. The game needs an internet connection at all times, even for singleplayer. Occasionally iffy servers might drop you out of a match.
And an irritating chat window between fights shows a constant stream of inane children teasing each other about trading characters (you can't).
Likewise, there's currently no option for local multiplayer, which is a real pity. However, despite all this, there's a lot to love in Marvel Contest of Champions.
(Disney) Infinity War
The visuals are stunning. The game truly sings on the iPad's larger screen, with superb effects work and each chunky character looking like they could happily fit within Disney Infinity.
The current roster is smart too, focussing on characters seen in Marvel's various filmic endeavours and forthcoming TV expansions.
And while it's too early to predict the true longevity of Marvel Contest of Champions, the core gameplay here is great fun, despite the game's broader niggles, with ample content considering the price of entry.
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