Nothing from Stark Industries comes cheap.
With more smartphone and tablet games going free-to-play, it's interesting to see the lengths publishers go towards implementing in-app purchases. Few do it well, while most seem greedy. Gameloft sits in the middle, and its newest iOS and Android title, Iron Man 3, is a prime example why. This action-packed endless flying game includes the sorts of features that hardcore fans crave, from 18 different suits of armor (including the Iron Patriot and War Machine) to famous villains like Crimson Dynamo and M.O.D.O.K. You could in theory enjoy the game for hours without spending a dime, and it's certainly fun despite some issues. Build the aforementioned armor, though, and you'll soon realize everything has a price.
Iron Man 3 does a good job putting the best things just out of reach. You receive the Mark III armor right away with the option of researching different suits, but there's a catch. You only have three additional slots to start, and must "buy storage" for more using ISO-8, one of the game's premium currencies, the other being Stark Credits. You can always dismantle a suit and research another without adding more spaces, but here's the kicker. You can only buy ISO-8 via IAP. Want Stark Credits? Play the game over several hours to amass thousands or cash in some precious ISO-8 for more. Considering how difficult it is to accumulate ISO-8 through normal play, grinding is the best option if you're short on cash and heavy on patience.
This isn't necessarily a deal breaker. We didn't expect Gameloft to just hand over the Mark 33 Silver Centurion and Mark 30 Starboost without holding its outstretched hand for a little dough, or heavy grinding on our part. Far stranger is the time it takes to repair your armor after dying, which is more or less inevitable in a game that throws missiles, fighter jets and killer robots your way. Bottom line, Iron Man take damage and you'll need to wait until his suit repairs itself so you can play again. Granted, this doesn't take long, but it feels completely unnecessary. Ask us to pay for suits all you want, but don't prevent us from playing the game.
Speaking of which, there's very little leeway with the collision detection, which is a shame considering things move so quickly. Touch a missile by just a hair, and Iron Man loses a considerable amount of energy. Oftentimes, it'll seem as if we left enough room to fly through something, only to die anyway.
Performance wise, there are slight bits of lag in certain parts of the game. Not enough to hamper the experience, but an eyesore considering the vision Gameloft obviously sought to achieve. On a side note, the 3D graphics feature tiny jagged edges around characters and the environment as a whole. Again, this doesn't ruin things, but considering the iPhone 5 and iPad Retina displays, a higher resolution game would have been ideal. This notwithstanding, the exquisite armor detail is a wonderful sight.
In regard to controls, prepare for a slight learning curve. You can only move Iron Man left or right, but attack was mapped to the same button press, which makes avoiding projectiles and returning fire a bit tricky.
The problems notwithstanding, we don't mean to gang up on Iron Man 3 for the sake of condemning Gameloft. On the positive side, the company managed to create an enjoyable game that attempts to mix things up. As such, you'll have flying segments that force you to dodge hazards, then slower combat sequences that let you to destroy targets. You may even transition into hover mode to kill ground-based bad guys, or square off against a boss. Now consider three unique locations to explore (Malibu Shores, New York City and China) and a wealth of achievements, and there's plenty of content.
The overall lack of accessibility knocks Iron Man 3 down several pegs, but considering the unimpressive history of superhero video games, this one still manages to shine, with its intense flying, daily challenges and fan service. Money improves this title considerably, but you don't need to spend it to have a decent time.
Review code provided by Gameloft.
What's Hot:Non-stop action, 18 different pieces of armor, three environments to explore, numerous challenges to complete.
What's Not:Repair times, only three available slots to research armor, you can't purchase Stark Credits, sloppy graphics.