The world of X-Men is an excellent backdrop for storytelling, especially in games. It has a huge array of memorable heroes and villains, a winning combination of political strife and giant purple robots. But short of a few Marvel crossover games, the X-Men have been fairly quiet in the gaming world since the X-Men Legends series. This new Android platformer at least fulfills the promise of playing as a wide range of characters, but it seems to be a bit lacking on the gameplay front.
X-Men: Days of Future Past follows the general plot of the most recent X-men film of the same name. Both Magneto’s mutants and members of the X-Men travel back in time to prevent a future where “Sentinel” robots walk the streets, killing mutants and placing them in prison camps.
The game, however, features a style more in line with the comics than the film. This is a smart choice, since the movie is now almost a year old, and it avoids the feeling of this being another movie cash-in game. Still, the art felt a little flat to me, evocative of comic style in the most generic way. Characters are animated at their joints, with little change to the rest of their bodies during movement. It’s not uncommon to see in games like this, but it still looks a little hokey.
The game is a relatively simple platformer. Players pick from a roster of seven mutants, each with their own set of powers and upgrades. Simple, well-implemented virtual buttons control movement, jumping, and attacking, with special moves activated by holding the attack button or swiping across it in different directions. As I’ve often said before, virtual buttons are far from the best platforming experience, but the action here is relatively slow-paced, so they don’t get in the way.
Unfortunately, that’s also its biggest weakness. Enemies never come more than three at a time, and each can be dispatched with a simple three-hit combo. The difficulty level is mostly managed by scarcity of health pick-ups. The enemies don’t get much harder, but I found myself dying simply because I had fought too many without healing. A few special moves have a chance to stun enemies, but it’s often impossible to avoid damage.
This structure actually negates some of the interesting variety in the game. Each of the playable mutants feels different and true to their character. Colossus is slow, but hits hard, while Scarlet Witch backs up her weak projectile attacks with the ability to fly. It’s impressive that they all have different abilities and attacks (unlocked with experience points gained from fights and collectibles). But since my character experimentation resulted in death on later levels, I always reverted back to Wolverine, who is the most evenly balanced between speed, power, and defense.
On paper, the game sounds like a solid package: 23 levels, each with hidden collectibles and objective-based scoring to encourage replay, along with the seven playable characters (with Magneto still to come in a later update). But with sluggish and repetitive gameplay and an unfortunate difficulty curve, I would hesitate to recommend it.
Lots of content can’t quite save a slow, frustrating platformer.