Across the whole of the video game world, there’s been a welcome upswing in the quality of super hero-based games. While this is largely thanks to Batman Arkham Asylum (and City), Spider-Man and other fan favorites have been benefiting as well– even on mobile devices. Justice League: Earth’s Final Defense is an iOS exclusive that apparently didn’t bother trying to reach such lofty goals.
Instead of modeling its design philosophy after great modern games, it feels ripped directly out of the 16-bit and early-PlayStation eras. The game is simply a mindless brawler, with a DC character wrapping, but that in itself isn’t a bad thing. In all fairness, Justice League has some decent stuff going for it.
Players choose from Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at the start, with the Flash and Green Lantern available– rather lamely– through in app purchases (you can earn enough in-game coins to unlock them and new costumes, but that would take an incredible amount of time). Once a character is chosen, you’re stuck with them for a while, as there’s no option to switch during a level (or even a whole chapter). Since the heroes rise in level and abilities as they bash more bad guys, this leads to an incredible amount of repetition if you want to see what all three have to offer.
As the heroes gain experience, they earn new skill and stat points, so they are constantly getting stronger and earning more of their signature moves (such as Superman’s heat vision). There are a limited number of ability slot buttons in the controls, allowing players to theoretically string together a combo of regular attacks and special abilities.
Generally this concept works, but the controls feel sloppy. Exact aiming is thrown to the wind and there’s no smoothness to the combat– certainly in comparison Arkham City’s superbly simple (yet refined) combat. Instead, you’re left with mindless virtual button mashing the whole way through. There’s also no attempt to creatively use the power differences of the characters. Superman is as weak as Batman, and can easily succumb to bullets, spear-wielding grunts, and gorilla goons. His flight ability is humorously limited to low street level.
Batman is actually a bit more fun since he eventually gets a regeneration ability that is directly tied to beating thugs up, but the gameplay never varies or gets more complex than mindless, simplistic combat. There are 20 linear levels, with little story to push things on, and even the level architecture is redundant within the four chapters.
For a cheap price, Justice League delivers a very retro, arcade-style basher. Nothing about the game is especially noteworthy– the audio is lackluster and the graphics are blocky– but for fans of the genre in search of a comic book theme, this is a tolerable choice. Unfortunately, nothing here even attempts to get beyond the primitive roots of this old school genre.