The Collector is a character almost custom built for a game like Marvel Contest of Champions. An alien who captures both heroes and villains for his personal people library, he is the perfect vehicle for a card collection game. Combine this with the vast number of super-powered individuals in Marvel’s vivid comic universe, and you have a free to play experience with a better excuse for its existence than most of its rivals.
He taps left, she swipes right
Taking the form of a streamlined one-on-one fighter, the basics of Marvel Contest of Champions will be familiar to all genre fans. The left half of the screen is dedicated to dodges and blocks, while the right side is focused on light, medium, and heavy attacks, giving you many of the same options as a full-fledged brawler.
That is not to say that Marvel Contest of Champions is a completely rounded fighting experience. The omission of any real movement control (other than a quick dodge) removes many of the genre's deeper strategies. Similarly, the binding of special moves to a single on-screen button further dials back on the skill, meaning unleashing powerful attacks is just a matter of waiting for them to charge instead of being tied to a player’s talents.
In the campaign mode this doesn’t cause a problem, as all it really translates to is sending in your most powerful champions. Along the way you can choose from various branching paths, battling everyone you meet to achieve your goal. Some routes are harder but yield better rewards (including additional fighters) and, even when you don't make it to the end, you will gain experience.
The bigger they are, the harder they hit you
However, playing online against a stronger opponent often just feels like the deck is stacked against you. Even with the battles tiered, going up against another player a level or two above you is near impossible, no matter how well you play.
Throwing myself against this multiplayer difficulty wall, I was regularly frustrated. My level 10 squad of a one-star Gamora and Wolverine, and a two-star Juggernaut was constantly beaten by level 12 fighters. More annoyingly, my opponents just seemed to be mashing on the screen with no apparent strategy, yet still pounding my trio into submission.
Even when making effective use of the elemental system I struggled. Certainly this could make up the difference of a single level pitting one of my "Mystic" champions against someone with the power "Cosmic", but it was still near impossible to beat someone two levels higher.
This imbalance is understandable to a point; after all if you have paid for a more powerful character the last thing you want is to be beaten online by a “weaker” opponent. While this may make the multiplayer a tad throwaway, the single player remains a fun spectacle thanks to the bold look and smooth animation of the comic book heroes.
A real champ
Using a simple selection of swipes and taps, Marvel Contest of Champions takes the one-on-one fighting game genre and strips it back to the entertaining essentials. With a nice range of the more popular Marvel heroes carefully reproduced in-game, this offers plenty of fun for free.