When we posted the first screenshots and trailer for He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe, our readership collectively flipped. What was it that inspired such high hopes for this game: The updated graphics? The choice of Star Marine creator Glitchsoft to develop it and EA’s Chillingo to publish it? Or is it just nostalgia for long-past Saturday mornings? After trying the game for ourselves, we think He-Man on iOS will appeal mainly to the kids of those who first grew up with the cartoon 30 years ago.
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’ve probably got enough experience with videogames to expect a bit of challenge. But videogames have become much easier over time, and that’s especially true of games that are aimed at a younger set. He-Man on iOS doesn’t seem to be focused on challenge– it’s more about the sharp graphics, classic characters, and goofy storyline.
The story of the game involves Skeletor making a tablet app and inviting He-Man over for a game. The “muscle-bound buffoon” doesn’t realize it’s a trap, and soon Skeletor has the keys to He-Man’s Castle Grayskull. You’ll have to chase after him to get the keys back, and Skeletor sends several of his henchmen like Beastman, Trap Jaw, and Hordak to fight you.
In the first few levels, you’ll learn how to control He-Man and his powers. You move by swiping left or right on the left half of the screen, while tapping on the right side will swing your sword, and swiping up will make you jump. The levels mainly seem to be a straight walk to the right, with groups of enemies who mindlessly swarm He-Man and try to deplete his life bar. At any time, you can call in the power of Grayskull, which makes He-Man flash with lightning and turns his default attack into a Battletoads-style punch straight into the screen.
In our playthrough, we didn’t have any trouble making it to the end of the level while taking a few hits from skeleton warriors and goblins. But earning enough stars to unlock future levels, and earning in-game gems that can be used to buy power-ups, will probably require a more careful playthrough. Younger players might not struggle that much with the main game, but it might also be tempting for them to skip ahead with some in-app purchases.
Like Star Marine, power-ups require in-game currency to unlock. You can also explore to find unlockable artwork. Even if the game didn’t strike us as too deep, we did like that you can smash columns and bring down rubble on enemies, making you feel a bit more hulking as you fight.
He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe doesn’t really strike us as too powerful at this point. He-Man is a great license, which seems to be put to decent use in this simple, side-scrolling brawler. But this game has also been dumbed way down, offering less of a cerebral challenge than we would have liked. For a hero who uses his muscles more than his mind, it’s not a surprising choice. Look for He-Man on the App Store late next week.