On the App Store, fun and original ideas are often rewarded with massive success. They’re also the target of me-too clones that aim to replicate that success, minus the originality. Just look at the dozens of Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Tiny Tower clones for just a few recent examples. Marvel’s Avengers Initiative is a straight-up copy of Infinity Blade, but in the end, the main question we have to address as reviewers is not, “is this game completely original?” but “is this game actually fun?”
And yes, Avengers Initiative is a total blast. Turns out, Infinity Blade’s swipe-based combat is the perfect avenue for a superhero beat ‘em up, especially one starring the Hulk. Marvel could have borrowed an older gameplay style, like DC’s Justice League with its 80s arcade action, but Avengers Initiative is a fantastic game that slightly builds on Infinity Blade’s best features.
Swing and a miss.
If you’ve played Infinity Blade, you barely need to bother with the tutorial in Avengers Initiative, because it’s mostly the same. There are a few clever additions, like the ability to use your stamina (shield blocks in Infinity Blade) to land punches that wouldn’t otherwise connect. Also, you can restore your health in mid-battle, something that always seemed missing from the Epic/Chair games.
The battles in Avengers Initiative are perfectly suited for your character, the Hulk. He can trade powerful punches with the toughest-looking monsters and villains, but he’s also spry enough to dodge their heavy attacks. It is a little more difficult to anticipate some of your enemy’s attacks in Avengers Initiative, though, because the direction of a swinging punch isn’t as readily apparent as the direction of a sword slash.
In addition to the combat, and your endlessly circular attempts to level up your character through repetitive fights, the real reason to keep playing Avengers Initiative is the fun story. You’ll face a series of minions on the way to two supervillains, Wendigo and Zzzax, who will be roughly the same level as you when you fight them. But the third villain, Abomination, is significantly more powerful than you, forcing you to replay the first part of the game until you’re able to defeat him. When you do finally defeat Abomination, that’s not the end– there’s one more high-end boss for you to fight.
Are you not entertained?
To bulk up, you can collect the game’s in-app currency the exact same way you do it in Infinity Blade– by tapping on it in the background and defeating enemies in combat. But you’ll also be able to Hulk out on giant crystals scattered throughout the levels, which offers a fairly enjoyable minigame if you just want to hit something that doesn’t hit back.
Marvel also gets their hooks in you with a half-dozen different ways to customize your character. You can purchase different costumes for the Hulk, with unique attributes, and mix-and-match so extensively that it looks like the Hulk got dressed in the dark (as opposed to his usual torn-pants look). You can boost your stats further with augments, which are like the gems in Infinity Blade 2. Needless to say, you can spend a whole lot of real-world money if you want to skip the grinding and get straight to the wins. Every upgrade or item is available for sale.
Cue the dress-up montage.
If you don’t want to play Avengers Initiative because it’s an unofficial clone of Infinity Blade, that’s up to you. We try to support originality and creativity in gaming, too. But without Wolfenstein 3D, there would be no Half-Life. Without Pitfall, there’d be no Super Mario Bros. And without Infinity Blade, there wouldn’t be Avengers Initiative. Marvel’s game stands on its own due to the brilliant graphics, fun storyline, and dozens of extra features and Easter eggs for comic fans. Avengers Initiative is a clear Must Have if you love the Infinity Blade style of gameplay, even if playing it gives you a persistent feeling of deja vu.