Yesterday, I was quite excited to see Konami release an iOS version of their classic arcade beat ‘em up X-Men [$2.99], and I quickly downloaded the title as soon as it hit the US App Store. The good news is that this is a totally competent port of X-Men that’s just how your remember it from 1992, and it plays just fine using virtual controls. The bad news is that once the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia wear off, X-Men is a simplistic and repetitive game at its core compared to modern offerings.That doesn’t mean it isn’t any fun though, and it’s still a total blast to kick the snot out of legions of Magneto’s henchmen using your favorite X-man or woman.
X-Men was always at its best played cooperatively with friends, with the pinnacle being the dual-screen arcade cabinet that allowed for all 6 players to play together simultaneously. This feature has been faithfully retained in the iOS version thanks to local WiFi cooperative play. I don’t have enough devices to confirm whether you can play with all 6 players at once or not, but I did play through a 3 player game using an iPad 2, iPhone 4, and iPod touch. The connection was both easy to set up and reliable throughout the game, and cooperative multiplayer in X-Men is just as much fun as I remember it being.
Unfortunately, the solo gameplay doesn’t hold up quite as well. Since continuing from exactly where you end up dying is both unlimited and doesn’t cost any quarters, almost all of the risk or challenge is taken out of the game. It’s easy to just mindlessly mash through the game, continuing as much as you need until it’s all over. Sure, you can challenge yourself by restricting your own use of the continue option, but a more structured set of rules or goals would have been a nice addition. The inclusion of Game Center achievements and a leaderboard mitigates this somewhat.
Besides unlimited continues taking some of the fun out of the game, the actual brawler-style gameplay hasn’t aged so well either. Your offensive move set is extremely shallow, and X-Men doesn’t strive to be anything more than a mindless button-masher. The problem is that the visceral feel of physically mashing away at buttons on an arcade cabinet doesn’t translate so well to the flat surface of a touch screen.
One nice addition to the iOS version of X-Men is the ability to move the onscreen virtual controls wherever you like, though I wish I could adjust the opacity of them as well. It’s a universal game, and plays well on both the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad. There is the option to play the game in a cropped window that retains the original 4:3 aspect ratio of the arcade game, or a “16:9” option that fills out the entire screen of whichever device you’re using. I tend to go with the smaller window option as it retains the crispness of the pixel graphics, but it’s nice to have the option of full screen too.
If you were a fan of the X-Men game in arcades nearly two decades ago, then you should easily get your three dollars-worth out of the iOS version just on the nostalgia factor alone. If you aren’t familiar with the original game but enjoy a good arcade beat ‘em up, then X-Men should still do the trick, it’s just not the best the genre has to offer. The gameplay feels quite dated by today’s standards, though it’s not without its charms. If you have one or more iOS device-toting buddies with you, the experience improves dramatically in cooperative play.
I’m really happy that Konami decided to bring one of its classic arcade titles to the App Store, as are a ton of players in our forums, and I really hope that we continue to see more down the line. While the gameplay hasn’t aged so well and there isn’t an excessive amount of bells and whistles, the iOS X-Men is a totally decent conversion and an easy recommendation for fans of the original.
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