Friday, December 7, 2012



Earlier, I had promised to review the disability accessibility of the iPad. So, I was psyched (or should I say, “Cyked”) to play this 1992 arcade classic which at the same time ties in with my favorite superheroes. There were some accessibility issues, as there seemingly always are with iPad games. Those of us with less than full dexterity will often tire of taps or swipes that don’t register. But, the one big pro was the game itself!

First off, before we get to pros and cons, I remember this game from Birchwood Mall in Port Huron, MI, when it was new. My memories are extremely vague, but I remember everybody always wanted to play it, and there would be like 5 people crowded around that big X-Men cabinet; lots of shouting and shoving, my mom would hold me up to the cabinet to play. Here was a game that let you be the X-Men. Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Dazzler Nightcrawler, and Wolverine; this was not the roster from the 1992 cartoon, then new; this was from the 1989 cartoon pilot Pryde of the X-Men!

But, differences in roster aside, you got to fight against the bad guys from the comics. And what could be greater? Translating the format from cabinet to touch screen however, proved a bit tricky. On a cabinet, you have big giant buttons: jump, attack, mutant power, and a big joystick to move around with. On a touch screen, you have small, touch-sensitive icons, which are lumped together in the bottom right of the screen. Lumping together makes perfect sense if you have full dexterity, or are on a cabinet (after a while you just physically feel where each button is.) but on a touch screen, it means you’ll be pressing the wrong icon unless you look down there a lot.

Most curious to me was the joystick translation. Here, you have a small X in the bottom left corner of the screen. With most iPad games you just tap the screen and it goes. This is not so here. The spaces in between the X correspond to cardinal directions that you hold down to move. Especially given that the icon is on the opposite side of the action icons, it was difficult, though not impossible, to do two things at once. Moving and attacking, being relatively close but on opposite sides, is easiest. But, say, jumping and attacking is a bit more slippery, or jumping in a given direction. For this reason, I hated pit levels (which I believe start with level 4 and continue on.)

If there was a pit, I was falling in it, which of course makes you lose a life. So, unless I very slowly walk around it down Nightcrawler or whoever goes. Also, if you take too long…I believe a minute after clearing an area and the game tells you to “MOVE ON! à ” a bomb drops, killing your hero. While this was useful in arcades as a tactic to goad lazy bones holding back the group when arcade goers were spending precious time and tokens, it just feels annoying here. I’m trying to save the world, and the game drops a bomb on me.

Pros for the iPad: Mercifully, the iPad version has a “pause” icon so a bomb doesn‘t drop on you every minute! Also, you can continue as much as you like. While it takes away from the challenge, sometimes it’s necessary to just use your mutant power attack to clear the screen, although it takes two health slots. Honestly, there is such variety to the attacks that the mutant power attacks never made me feel like I was less into the game. There’s a difficulty setting if you want more challenge, which I can assure you the arcade version didn’t have. These are all plusses to the iPad version for accessibility.

In fact, to me, using mutant power in more desperate situations (attacked in mobs, etc.) made the game feel more like a comic book; like you were really kicking butt! Which, I’m sure was the game makers intention even in arcades, when gamers would wait for those situations to pop up. It looked cool, and it saved sweet tokens. And the 5 guys you could play with would thank you maybe. On the iPad, since you don’t use tokens, mutant powers are just shorthand for either “I wanna look awesome!” or “Ugh! Let’s get this fight over with.”

A note on character appearances. As mentioned before, this is the 1989 roster from what I see. Dazzler is basically Jubilee. Professor X has a power chair it looks like, but it is less detailed and it’s ambiguous how he’s driving it, since there’s no joystick. Details, details. Also, the characters retain the badly translated Japanese dialogue, such as Magneto and Emma Frost’s “Welcome to die!” which adds a corny factor. Twice, even! Two characters say that! Also, you know it’s from the 1989 roster because Professor X has no British accent.

Stylistically, the game very much reminds me of an arcade game. (Those token-eating beat-em-ups of the 90s.) but the control mechanism really takes me out of the game sometimes, which is otherwise a good game: I don’t want to see Cyclops getting pummeled because I was punching one guy and forgot to turn around. But, the iPad makes up for that in that it is not as merciless (thank goodness!) as the arcade.

Overall, I’m excited (X-Cited?) to have the game again, and to relive some epic childhood moments. For me, it’s all about story. And now I’m in there again, using mutant abilities to save the world. As the game says: “Here come to the heroes to save the world from destruction. They are X-men!” Oh yeah, I’m an X-man again! Now, if only I could stop jumping against that wall!





(Colossus' mutant power.)

                                                   (Good view of the control scheme.)

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