Following the imminent success of its summer blockbuster The Avengers ($1.5 billion and counting), Marvel has decided to up the ante, continuing the story on the mobile front with the release of Avengers Initiative. This is an episodic game, which will be split into at least four parts, but with this opening chapter, they've picked a hell of a starter, with the Incredible Hulk coming out of the woodwork to smash enemies.
Now, before you jump into Avengers Initiative, there's something you should know – it's not entirely original. I mean, the story is, but the build is quite similar to Chair Entertainment's Infinity Blade series. That means you'll be performing swipes on the screen to dodge incoming attacks, or tapping an icon at the bottom of the screen to perform blocks. And once your enemy is stunned, you'll swipe like crazy, putting together combos to smack someone into next Tuesday.
But while the gameplay is lacking in originality, there's no question that it's enormously fun to play. The Hulk performs with a great deal of accuracy on the iPad, responding to your touches with very little error and executing some great attacks, including signature moves like the Smash and Thunderclap, once you execute a full Rage meter. What's more, he can mix up his attacks with a number of finishing moves, and even throw someone into a wall if he gets angry enough.
What's more, a number of familiar characters from the Marvel universe pop in. Nick Fury jumps in right off the bat, sending Hulk on his mission, and foes like The Kronan and Wendigo makes appearances, foolishly threatening the big green guy. Be on the lookout for Abomination as well – yep, he's a pain.
Like Infinity Blade, Avengers Initiative gives you the ability to power-up your character with a number of augments, perks and costumes. It looks a bit ridiculous seeing Hulk in a set of armor that you'd see on a band member in Gwar, but, hey, that's just part of creativity in motion, right? And besides, some of these abilities really help you over the course of battle, and there are better unlockable ones as you progress through the game.
For a mobile game, Marvel really put a lot of effort into its Initiative when it comes to presentation. The visuals are stunning, though not as polished as Infinity Blade's renders. You'll have a chuckle or two watching Hulk do his thing, then stomping off muttering something about puny enemies under his breath. The environments look good as well, including some familiar locales – and plenty of wasteland – for Hulk to smash his way through. The audio is quite good also, with plenty of great voice effects and Marvel-ized music to listen to either out in the open or through headphones.
The only real catch with Avengers Initiative is its price. The general game is $6.99, and for that you only get the Hulk's side of the story. Other heroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor will be introduced in the months ahead, but you'll have to pay separately for those chapters. What's more, if you want to buy specific power-ups from the get-go, you'll have to plunk down a couple of extra dollars. It almost comes across like a cash machine.
But that said, Marvel didn't just cheaply put together Avengers Initiative. Sure, it's Infinity Blade like, and you don't exactly buy the "full" game up front, but the Hulk delivers enough punishment to make this initial investment worth it. Plus who can deny the power of the Thunderclap? Doing so would make us angry…and you wouldn't like us when we're angry.