Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon has a lot going against it. It’s a movie game, it’s a comic book game and it’s a mobile game. Alone any one of those factors can sink a title, together they are a recipe for disaster. However, like the theme of underdogs making good that runs through the promotional materials for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon overcomes expectations to deliver a fast-paced challenge that’s packed with action, humor and lore that will appeal to current Marvel fans and fascinate the new fans the movie will create.
To bring Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon’s (out now for Android, iOS and Windows devices) original story to life, Disney Interactive leveraged what is truly the most powerful weapon in the universe, corporate synergy, and brought aboard veteran Cosmic Marvel/Guardians of the Galaxy writer Dan Abnett (Annihilation) to blend the comic book and cinematic versions of the space heroes and their universe. In an original story, after assembling during a prison break, Star-Lord and the Guardians are quickly tasked with recovering the missing pieces of the Universal Weapon before Ronan can use it to conquer the universe.
What follows is a linear brawler/RPG where you assemble a team of up to four characters from an unlockable roster of over a dozen Cosmic Marvel heroes and villains that have at least spent some time in space, and pit them against waves of foes by drawing lines between them to direct their attacks. On the most basic level each character is either a melee or ranged attacker, but the game gives its first hint at having an element of strategy by having characters perform better against either melee or ranged opponents. Each character also has special attacks, including synergies with particular active characters, upgradeable weapons and items. The familiar Marvel game mainstay ISO-8 even makes an appearance as customizable stat-boosters.
Outside of the story mode, you can take on the Hoard-style arena to test out your unlocked characters and unlock a few more that are unique to that mode. In the arena you can farm experience and currency, a necessity for when the story mode difficulty ramps up.
While it’s a bit of a drag that you can only have a maximum of four player characters since the titular team is one of five, the action is still challenging and furious as you need to keep an eye on your team to make sure they are not only attacking effectively but also not getting cornered or overwhelmed. You’ll need to keep a finger on your team as well as it can become difficult to pick out a particular friend or foe if you’ve got a fur ball going.
Visually Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon took a big risk by rendering all of its heroes in the ‘super-deformed’ (big-head) style, but it works. Each has a unique look and animations that impart a lot of character, which is good since all of the dialog is conveyed via inter-stage comic panels or pop ups from fan favorite Cosmo in his role as mission control. The game’s music is flat and uninspired; outside of a certain 70s pop hit whose trumpet fanfare makes for great victory fanfare.
Overall Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon has a lot going for it, the deep-cut roster (Quasar, Mantis, Caiera), the unusual locations (Sakaar, Hala) and fast, addictive gameplay but the best feature is its embracing of the welcome trend in mobile games back towards the traditional flat-price game module and away from the various ‘free-to-play’ systems.
Rama Rating: 8 out of 10