At the ripe old age of 30, the boy that was Prince Adam is now a man. A He-Man, and the Masters of the Universe franchise is back with us in the all-new He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe [$2.99]  from Chillingo. And this isn’t just a dusting off of the 80s cartoon toy advert you and I grew up with. It’s a reimagining of the cheeseball franchise that clearly understands its audience isn’t 10-year-old boys any more; it’s the immature men (He-Men?) they’ve grown into.

Everything about He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe draws heavily upon a delicious retro-ironic conceit, and that was a very wise design decision. So wise, in fact, that I suspect it was actually the saucy Sorceress who came up with it.

Anyway, He-Man and his buddies have undergone a slight change of appearance, hinting at the popular 'super-deformed' art style prominent during the hallowed days of 16-bit gaming. And that’s not all the game borrows from those wonderful times, back when the pixel was king.

He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe is a classic 2D platform game in every possible sense, with lots of cell-shading, basic parallax scrolling and lots of little nooks and ledges to climb on when you’re hunting for gems. Quite honestly, Sonic the Hedgehog wouldn’t look out of place in these environments, and nor would Simon Belmont, Rastan or Sir Arthur. It’s rich in traditional gaming artistry, from characters to collectibles and flickering, evaporating scenery after it's met with your sword.

This makes it a very simple game to play, requiring only that you make it to the end of the levels alive before moving on to the next and slightly trickier collection of platforms. Each of the characters you remember from the tacky cartoon make their cameo appearances as required either in boss battles or cut scenes, including Beast Man, Trap Jaw, the friendly magician Orco and even Skeletor himself, who now has the keys to Grayskull (yep, the castle drawbridge apparently has a set of keys that He-Man carries around in his furry pants) as you chase him across Eternia.

We’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of retro remakes and direct ports of classic games over the last couple of years, but this is one of the few times that a developer has successfully captured the essence of those blessed days while still providing us with a brand new game to play.

A sticking point with such games, as you’ve probably already anticipated, is the controls. Fortunately we’re not handcuffed to a radiator by awful on-screen d-pads and buttons in He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe. Instead, swiping or pressing on the left-hand side of the screen moves He-Man in the appropriate direction, while tapping on the right-hand side swings his sword. Upward swipes on the right perform jumps (double jumps are included, of course, in accord with 80s-style game mechanics), and as the game progresses other simple and equally accessible gestures are brought in to perform more powerful moves.

It's unfortunate that quick access to these power-ups is locked away behind in-app purchases, but not entirely unexpected. You’ll have to replay quite a few levels to shore up the number of gems needed to get the most desirable power-ups without shelling out real money, but the game’s not so greedy that it can’t be done with just dedication alone. Your work will pay off, and the game is endearing enough that you'll earn stacks of gems purely as a side effect of your gaming enthusiasm.

Every time you kill something or knock something down in the game, gems are scattered about the floor. You can save these up to swap for these new moves, to summon Man-at-Arms with his fancy long-distance weapons, or to call upon the power of Grayskull. The latter is highly recommended whenever you’re in a sticky spot, as it’s not just a useful method of clearing the screen, but it’s one of many hilarious, tongue-in-cheeks moments that give the game so much salty flavor.

The power of Grayskull puts He-Man into a brief bezerker rage, making you not only invulnerable, but doubly powerful. The enemies don’t just disappear after being killed; they’re thrown face-first into the screen, shattering the glass of your display while you smile like Skeletor at their dazed expressions. It’s completely unnecessary, and completely wonderful.

Once upon a time there were very believable rumors that He-Man was a rip-off of Conan the Barbarian, tweaked to appeal to the younger generation. Given the sword-wielding, monster-slaying, hack 'n' slash nature of He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe, those rumors are still just as believable. Considering the lack of a great Conan game, this only makes He-Man all the more appealing to anyone who likes a good old fashioned fantasy romp.

The game is rife with lavish quirks, nods and winks toward those of us who grew up taking this stuff so seriously, but can now look back at it with a wry and friendly smile. By casually lampooning itself, He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe is entirely accessible to both the young and old alike. It’s a celebration not only of He-Man and Eternia, but a respectful bow to the type of gaming that became so popular when Price Adam was still a boyish whelp, and you’d be mad to miss it. Not as mad as you’d have to be to enjoy wallowing in such naughtily nostalgic nonsense (as I do), but mad nonetheless.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • nonstickron

    My lady made me promise to not buy anymore games for awhile or I'd be all over this.

  • pman555

    Full disclosure: They're sponsored by this game.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp
    • dibdib

      This is why I don't buy apps based on TA reviews any more.  I've been burned multiple times because they didn't bother touching upon the real elements of the game.  With this app, I already know better because I bought and played it.

      Twelve paragraphs, and only one glossing over the controls (which is oddly lacking the word "abysmal").  The rest is fluff unqualified to be called a review.  Give it four and a half stars because it didn't crash outright and call it a day.

      • Spamstic

        I agree the controls suck hard! However I don't blame touch arcade for glossing over faults when reviewing a game they just took money to advertise all over their site. 

        who could blame them for failing to mention sucky controls, no iphone 5 support etc and give it a top review. No need to lie just skip over the negatives.Most other sites I check have this at 3 stars ish. 

    • http://twitter.com/Sanuku Sanuku

      What the Heck are you talking about? Yes the Control System of He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe is as worse as it could be "but" you also need to realize that the Control System is different evaluated by each Reviewer.Some care about it very much while others don`t do so. Expect a lot of different controversy Review about it to show up soon...

  • GSJ1977

    Oh TA, you're so silly.

  • http://twitter.com/JazzFlight Nathan Rucci

    You may want to mention for iPod Touch 5th Gen users that there's a bug that prevents the game from displaying in widescreen.  Hopefully there's an update coming...

  • Greyskull

    Please please oh please tell me Many Faces makes at least a cameo appearance.

  • danijel korov

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh.... so retro.... so He-Man.... Like it alot :D
    But it would be much better if they used original idea, concept for the game that is showed on picture in unlocable concept art pictures. Hope they will remake it that way :)
    But on top GREAT RETRO GAME!!! ;)

  • tjgeneva

    I want iCade support.

  • Gamer_Kev

    Thanks for the review. I've been waiting for it as I have been hesitant to buy this game because it has IAPs. Knowing that the game is playable without being forced to make purchases is a relief. I do hope they eventually add iCade controls as I think this game would go really well with them.

  • soldat7

    The controls are terrible.

    • tjgeneva

      This looks ideal for iCade, I hope they add that ability in the next update.  Especially with 8-Bitty's recent release. 

  • dwx882

    As a fan of the 80's cartoon series I like the game, even with the hokey storyline (but isn't He-Man as a whole pretty hokey?). My biggest complaint is the imprecise controls. Jumping feels awkward especially when trying to hit a flying enemy and all too often enemies come from both sides and the controls aren't precise enough to switch directions without taking a hit.

    • dibdib

      ding ding ding.  Already you're a more qualified critic than Spanner Spencer.  The difference is you pointed to an actual in-game example and used it to form an evaluation of something integral to the game--namely play control.  It wasn't a remark about whether they got his eye color correct, or a description of how to collect coins/gems/whatever.

      • dwx882

         I just called it the way I seen it. The graphics are great, the storyline although goofy is fun, but the controls are the real issue with this game that keep it from being a top contender in my book. I've seen platforming games feature tight, tuned controls before. It's not impossible on a touch screen, but for many games it seems improbable because "good enough" controls are easier to implement than "great" ones. If this has refined controls I could recommend it more whole-heartedly.

  • Vtec51O

    Game seems fun so far. Reminds me of Castlevania. Would have been nice if there was an option for an actual jump button. Sometimes the jump swipes don't register. Double jumping using swipes feels a bit awkward. Especially when trying to attack while in the air.

  • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

    Anyone remember Battle Beasts?  THAT would make an awesome game...

  • osvd

    Crashes alot. Swipe to jump sucks

  • Illuminerdy

    So does sponsorship = good review around here? Honest question, not trying to instigate. I just want to know if I should execute purchases I have already been thinking about based on high scores.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp
      • Illuminerdy

        Cool, Eli. I can't get this link on the mobile app, but will read it later.

      • Illuminerdy

        OK read it. Thanks for that assurance. Again, it was just a question asked in good faith, not to try and start shit. :)

      • http://twitter.com/TeslasTesticles Tesla

        Have you heard the paradox of the Cretan liar? Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: "All Cretans are liars." Basically, if you're told by Cretan that they're all liars, how can you trust the source. 

        It's also in Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick,' where the first line says, "Call me Ishmael." That's not necessarily his real name, it may be coming from an unreliable narrator - thus the trope of the "fish tale."

        Anyways, you saying it's company policy - even printing it loud and bold for all the world to see, doesn't necessarily mean it's company policy. 

        Instead of posting said company manifesto, just let your sponsored reviews speak for themselves. If the hoi polloi are dead set against a 4.5 star review, then you're clearly biased.

      • Illuminerdy

        Great point. +2 for reading good stuff.

    • JPhilipp

      Guys, imagine for a second that the TA staff cared only about money; that they're dollar-hording devils who'd say anything to make a dime. If so, then wouldn't it be stupid for them to write lying reviews, because that would mean they slowly lose readers (as we can't trust them anymore), which in turn means they'd lose the advertisers (because advertisers pay for the audience)?

      And now, just for a second, imagine they're actually *not* dollar-hording devils...

      By the way, the relationship between advertisers and editorial is indeed a complex topic, and no single editorial help page can change that. The best way really is to either have no advertiser, or to have so many that they neutralize each other. After all, if He-Man would've gotten a bad review, and the advertiser would've retreated in anger... there would be tons of publishers happy to take that free ad space.

  • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

    Unsurprisingly publishers typically schedule advertisements for their game to coincide with its release. As a game review site, we strive to review games very close to their release date. Obviously this leads to reviews and articles about a game going up at the same time as their advertising blitz is in full effect. 

    This can make for good fodder among conspiracy theorists, but our ad department is so far removed from our editorial that none of us even knew there would be this huge (and awesome) He-Man skin on the site until it was already there. So bottom line: one has absolutely nothing to do with the other in any way.

    As for the 4.5 stars, this game is a veritable smorgasbord of '80s nostalgia and tongue-in-cheek silliness that fits in your pocket, all for a buck. I'm going to recommend it to every one of my friends who grew up in the '80s and I bet they will love it, even if the controls are kind of awkward. I'd have scored it the same.

  • IpadGamer

    I honestly don't understand why some people and/or reviewers talk negatively about on-screen controls.  Platformers such as Soosiz, Swordigo, Wimp: Who Stole My Pants, and other such games use on-screen controls (D-pad or buttons) quite well!  Saying it can't be done is a complete misnomer, as too many games show that they can be used and used well.  Hopefully, He-Man will be updated with much better controls, and an option for on screen buttons/icons will be included.

  • B30

    Dolph be in later?

  • Hehateme78

    Swiping to jump is akward and arduous. It takes a lot out of the game and the ratings should be reflected accordingly. Just because YOU prefer or tolerate swiping to jump doesn't mean anyone else does. Thus, you should have at least criticized this game for not having a different option for same. I hope they consider incorporating the option to jump w/ a button so we can all enoy the game as much as you did.

  • http://graffitiwriter.co.uk/ Spanner

    I've been playing through again, with the controls specifically in mind from the comments here, and I'm still very happy with them. This type of game isn't really suited to touchscreens in many respects, but I maintain that this control solution in intelligent, and works.

    In my mind it's a bit like mastering the joypad combos in a console fighting game, as opposed to button mashing; there's a certain satisfaction in developing your dexterity skills. When you then do something cool, you've earned it because you practised the gestures, rather than just walking through the motions that any novice gamer could navigate. But it's true that not everyone wants to spend time practising when they could be playing the next level, which is a fair standpoint.

    I'm also happy that the developer committed to a control method, rather than trying to offer every possible option. If they'd done that, I believe the game would have suffered because it would be trying to accommodate lots of contrasting control systems instead of focusing on an enjoyable experience. So it wasn't my intention to gloss over the controls -- quite the contrary. I simply agree with the developer's decision in the matter.

    It's good to air all these opinions on the subject here, though. The game studios read this stuff, so it's a great way to send feedback in the correct direction for future updates. Keep it coming, keep it constructive, keep on playing.

    • Hehateme78

      These controls are not responsive enough for me to find any satisfaction in developing my dexterity skills. I have no quarrel w/ swiping actions in games as pitfall and God of Blades are 2 of my favorites. However, let's not pretend that swiping to jump is invariably reserverd for endless runner styles such as the aforementioned. It works for same because you need not worry about controlling your guy. The akwardness sets in when you do control your character's foward progress and still have to swipe to jump. I hold my ipad differently when playing an endless runner that requires the swipe jump than I do when I play rpg's like swordigo; hence, the uncomfortableness. Not to mention the swipe jesture in this game, even when I swipe right to throw his hammer, is not as responsive as a pitfall.
      I also have no problem when a developer incorporates a swipe gesture in a good rpg ( see A-Max). However, said game added the swipe to use your blade rather than use such a crucial movement like jumping. You need not swipe every other movement so it doesn't distract the user and makes it more like a bonus move rather than an absolute one. Thus, in A-Max I tend to find the 'satisfaction in developing my dexterity skills.' Perhaps, Chillingo should have reserved this mix control experiment in a game that did not involve one of the biggest cartoon Legends.
      I couldn't agree more with your recent 5 star rating ( and eloquent review) of Punchquest as that game seems to effortlessley master responsive controls. However, He-man should not be a mere hair under same as Punchquest is not only more responsive but allows you to block which gives the user invaluable control. I'm sorry but as a conventional grinder, I just have no inclination to grind in an akward and unresponive game.

  • GooooA

    Why some commented lost ?

  • http://twitter.com/Canovaccio Canovaccio

    I have had NO problems with the controls. I like them a lot, actually. I can easily pull moves... And the action flows great. I have the game both on my ipad and iphone, and the game works great on both. Personally, I think the game is fantastic and well worth the 4.5 stars. In fact, more than the quirky style, were is the controls which first caught my attention.

  • a1khole

    I agree with the people who are frustrated with the controls. I think they're terrible, and it's resulted in me stopping playing the game. Swipe to jump is imprecise; there's too much action going on to be able to properly achieve combat that's more complex than simply bashing away. At any given moment you may need to launch an upward attack, swivel to attack enemies on the left, etc. throwing the axe makes it even more complicated. Fix this and it'd be a great game.

  • vengchi

    I don't know why theirs so many complaints bout the controls .... Their easy to use. And this game is clearly a 5 star game

  • http://www.facebook.com/jefftomenyc Jeff Tome

    This really brings back memories.
    It's difficult to jump. I often power punch when I want to jump and fall off a cliff.
    I already beat the game in 1 1/2 days! At the very end credits He-Man is running along and you see Battlecat!! There needs to be a way to summon Battlecat or buy him with points. That would be awesome! Have him growl just like in the cartoon intro.
    Can you please add the 1988 cartoon intro video to the game or at least the soundtrack?
    When He-Man calls for the power of Grayscull, can you PLEASE use the same sound effects from the cartoon? Its Not "I have the power" like you have it, it's "By the power of Grayscull!!...... I have the power!!!" The game version is cheesy. Record the sound from the cartoon and play the same EXACT sound.

    To really improve gameplay I'd have voices from the cartoon characters speak out loud instead of only have a text bubble of what they say. Have He-Man, Sorceress, Man-at-Arms, Skeletor, Beast Man, Trap Jaw, Mer-Man, Hordak, and other characters speak in the same voice exactly from the cartoon, NO only text bubbles.

    Can you add more levels with a difficulty setting? What about Evil-Lyn and Tri-Klops? Maybe Evil-Lyn could put a spell on He-Man and unless he looks away he jumps off a cliff and you need to replay the entire level.

He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe™ Reviewed by Spanner Spencer on . Rating: 4.5