NetherRealm’s DC Comics fighter, Injustice: Gods Among Us, is now available in stores for the PS3, Wii U, and Xbox 360. But did you know that NetherRealm also released an iOS version of their superhero smash up a few weeks ago? Instead of trying to graft the complex mechanics of a modern-day fighter onto a mobile device, the team decided to turn it into a card-based fighter with experience points and upgradeable attacks…
…And microtransactions, of course.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Genre: Card-Based Superhero Smackdown
Release Date: April 9, 2013
iTunes App Rating: 9+
Injustice for the iOS takes most of the characters from the console version and assigns them to one of three tiers – Bronze, Silver, or Gold. As you’d guess, heavy hitters like Superman and Batman hang out in the Gold tier, while lesser names like Cyborg, Green Arrow, and Sinestro are relegated to Bronze. Midlist characters like Bane, The Flash, and Wonder Woman populate the Silver tier. Each tier of Character Cards is further subdivided into unaligned, Insurgency, Regime, and New 52 varieties. These designations are part of the larger storyline to Injustice found in the console version of the game, but the Superman vs Batman plot has been completely removed from the iOS version. So the alignment designations just result in a different costume skin here.
While you have to select and upgrade your cards to go into battle, the actual fighting is done by tapping and swiping at the screen. The fighting system is very simplified. A single tap is a light attack and three taps can be combined together to form a combo, which will result in an on-screen prompt encouraging you to swipe for a “Knockdown Blow.” Swiping outside of a combo is a heavy attack that inflicts more damage. You can also block by pressing both fingers down on the screen, but I don’t think I managed to make it work more than a handful of times out of at least a hundred matches.
Each character also has access to three Super Moves, which they can use once they fill a bar on the bottom of the screen by attacking and defending. Super Moves are activated by tapping the bar and then performing an associated Quick Time Event (furious tapping or swiping, basically) for maximum damage. But, only the first one is free. The two remaining Super Moves, for each character, have to be purchased with Power Credits (earned from winning fights) or with real money. This is the first of many times that the game throws an opportunity for microtransactions at you. Super Moves can also be upgraded with Power Credits to make the heroes and villains even more super.
The Story Mode, as it were, pits three randomly chosen Bronze-level characters against a seemingly neverending series of battles. More than 40 battles make up the main campaign for Injustice iOS, and each battle consists of at least five separate fights. The tap and swipe fighting gets very repetitive after a while, but it’s also a little addicting. I’m not sure if “fun” is the right word, but I’m not sorry I downloaded it.
That could be because what Injustice iOS lacks in variety, it makes up for it in the sheer amount of content available. Character Cards level up to increase attack power, health, and special moves. And Support Cards are available that confer attack and defense bonuses on individual characters or your entire team. If you want to expand your team beyond your initial three, you can purchase individual Character Cards or Booster Packs with Power Credits and/or real money. Finally, like most free-to-play games, “Energy” is required to engage in a fight. Your Energy is replenished slowly over the course of an hour. But Injustice iOS throws a constant supply of free Energy Cards at you to keep the game going or, if you absolutely need to, you can buy more with real money.
Injustice iOS includes a lot of microtransactions, but they never feel necessary. It is possible to advance without buying a higher tier character and the Power Credits you earn are more than enough to upgrade your Super Moves to the point where you can push through the campaign.
Injustice iOS looks great. It’s rendered using the same Unreal Engine 3 as its big brother, and the character designs are fantastic. NetherRealm likely used many of the same models from the console version for the iOS edition. But while it’s playable on all iOS devices, the game was clearly designed for an iPad as the text and buttons are frustratingly tiny on an iPhone/iPod Touch.
If your current iOS timewaster has run its course, you might want to give Injustice: Gods Among Us a look, especially if you’re interested in the console version. Playing the iOS edition (and signing up for a Warner Bros. ID) allows you to unlock exclusive skins (including Batman Beyond) in its big brother. At the very least, it’s free, and it’ll keep you busy until the next timewaster comes along.
Review Disclosure: Injustice: Gods Among Us is a free download from the iOS App Store.