by Melissa M. Parker1
Marvel Run Jump Smash! Review
Some Assembly Required
In writing this review of Marvel Run Jump Smash! I knew I needed to pin down when the commercialization of the Marvel franchise really began. Was it in 1977 when The Amazing Spider-Man first aired as a live-action TV series, lambasted by Stan Lee himself for being too juvenile? Was it a year later when The Incredible Hulk followed in its footsteps? Compared to other shows on the air at the time, like M*A*S*H and Schoolhouse Rock!, it’s hard to imagine that Marvel wasn’t just trying to turn turds for profit. Then again, these shows can at least theoretically be enjoyed as camp classics, unlike the 2002 movie release of Spider-Man, which mostly consists of Mary Jane whining as she drowns in a sea of Tobey Maguire’s tears. The conclusion I’ve drawn is that it all culminates in MRJS!, an Android app shameless enough to hide its crappy content behind paywalls while still charging $0.99 up front for the game. Can I get an Amen? AMEN SISTER. Hey, thanks for that, Hulk.
Marvel Run Jump Smash! at the very least delivers on its title. It’s an endless runner where you get to jump and smash. I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether the premise is exciting enough to warrant an exclamation point. As you would expect, you get to play as various Marvel superheroes, each of which has different abilities: Iron Man fires off a uni-beam, Hulk smashes—you get the drift. However, as you might not expect, you don’t get to select your superhero at the start of each run. For your main character, you’re stuck choosing between Nick Fury and Maria Hill, the Normies.
You can only play as a superhero when you collect one of their tokens during their run. How long you get to play as that superhero depends on how much gold you spend on upgrading your Iso-8 strength (a stamina bar that depletes for every second you spend as a hero, until it quickly whittles down to zero). How much gold you have to spend depends on how much money you’re willing to pay. Don’t expect to get much bang for your buck though, since each upgrade only increases your run time by fractions of a second.
You might be wondering to yourself, well, what’s the big deal? Why can’t I just wait until the next superhero token comes around? The answer is that you’ll probably be dead before you get the chance. As a superhero, you’re essentially invincible because when you hit an enemy or an obstacle Nick or Maria tags in to continue on the run. Nick and Maria, however, are not long for this world. Their jumps are weak and their guns are puny, so their ability to navigate increasingly complex courses suited for actual heroes is limited. Furthermore, MRJS! doesn’t believe in health bars, because the more health you have the less money you’ll be willing to spend, so one hit as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent ends your game. You’d have thought the developers at Marvel would take the mantra “with great power comes great responsibility” a little more seriously, but it seems their sleep is undisturbed by the sound of Uncle Ben turning in his grave.
The game’s upgrade system is flawed beyond price gouging core stats like Iso-8 strength. Power-ups are bestowed upon the heroes at random when you spend crystals (yes, this game has not one, but two in-app-currencies). This means that not only is there zero strategy in crafting different combinations of power-ups, but also that your character’s skills improve (or diminish, depending on chance), without you doing anything to earn it. Fortunately, if you don’t like the outcome, you can pay more gold to return to your previous stats! What a deal—eh, Bub?
Maybe all this could be forgiven with solid gameplay. Unfortunately, MRJS!’s gameplay is anything but. The runs get repetitive early on, since there are only a few iterations of each level. The special attacks look different but are identical in function—they just wipe out all visible enemies and obstacles on the screen. The game gets laggy at crucial moments, which will feel like a load of shrapnel to the heart. It’s boring and infuriating all at the same time!
At least with a free-to-play game, I know I’m getting what I pay for. When I shell out $0.99 of my hard-earned money, I expect there to actually be a game waiting for me on the other side, not endless grinds and empty promises. There’s nothing here for Marvel fans, or fans of videogames period. Anything you’d like to add, Hulk? HULK’S HEART HEAVY AT RUINATION OF ONCE GREAT FRANCHISE. IN CONCLUSION, HULK ANGRY. That’s fair, Hulk. Predictable, but fair.
Summary: This game is uninspired, boring to play, and designed to nickel and dime you. Why Marvel? Why?