Superhero games usually come up woefully short on consoles and more traditional handhelds, but this simply isn't the case with smartphones and tablets. Just look at Verticus, a collaboration between Moonshark and comic book icon Stan Lee, co-creator of Iron Man and The Avengers. Here's a brand-new intellectual property that nails the touchscreen experience. Not only that, but it also attempts something different in the overexposed endless running genre. In all, a fun game with a few issues.
On that note, Verticus takes place in the future, where a bunch of disgruntled aliens known as Obliterators burrow through the Earth's crust to plant the Cosmic Fuse, a doomsday device that has the power to destroy mankind. Our only hope rests in the hands of a lone hero wearing a heat resistant suit. Your job is to plunge through the air, stick it to the Obliterators and get rid of the Fuse.
That said, the game is more of an endless faller. Viewed from a third-person perspective, the hero blasts through the clouds, into a mysterious city and then deep underground. It's quite a thrilling experience, as you slide your thumb along a small portion of the screen to maneuver this guy (or gal) around a handful of obstacles, from dangerous mines to killer robots and other hazards. Thankfully, the controls are spot on. The touch recognition is perfect, and the ability to control this character from anywhere on the screen is a revelation. Definitely something other developers should make note of and replicate immediately.
What's more, the game ratchets up the intensity the further you progress. One second, you're skillfully looping around mines, and the next, ducking underneath rocks and eventually dodging the outstretched pincers of a mechanical behemoth, memorizing attack patterns to avoid death.
We're also big fans of the continue system. The game charges orbs to continue, but a.) the prices start out small and then gradually increase the more you die, and b.) you collect orbs from playing the game. Yes, you can purchase more, but so long as you plow through several attempts, this shouldn't be an issue.
There's also a handful of items that make things easier. Missiles, in particular, prove quite useful, and the Pickup Magnet makes coin collecting a breeze. Even better, you can upgrade all this stuff, including health, armor and the time it takes to recharge those missiles.
Then we have Stan Lee, who narrates the intro and offers advice during the game. He doesn't play himself, of course, but anyone with even a remote interest in superhero movies will recognize his voice.
Now for the not so great moments. Although the graphics look decent enough and the game runs without noticeable performance issues, we would have preferred a more dramatic change of scenery after completing the first and subsequent dives. There's a lack of variety that somewhat lessens the visual appeal. Combine that with too few bad guys, and there's little reason to continue playing long, aside from improving one's score.
On top of that, it's obvious (despite claims of Retina support) that the artwork during cut scenes is low resolution, as in you can see jagged edges. No real excuse for that.
Finally, we have the price. Considering how much Verticus relies on making those upgrades and gathering orbs, it comes off as a free game, but costs $1.99. While not expensive, necessarily, it remains to be seen whether Moonshark will regret charging to download it.
Taking all this into account, Verticus is a respectable first attempt that we hope evolves over time, with new locations, enemies and weapons. Even with its faults, though, this is yet another cool superhero game. Consider giving it a spin.
Review code provided by Moonshark.
What's Hot: Spot-on touch controls, high-speed gameplay, items and upgrades, Stan Lee.
What's Not: Could use more locations, low resolution art, IAP doesn't mesh well with $1.99 asking price.