Marvel and TinyCo, a San Francisco-based games company, have teamed to create Avengers Academy, a mobile app game featuring junior versions of the Avengers. The game places Marvel’s premiere team in college, where they will train to use their abilities, explore their social lives, and fight against the forces of evil.
To celebrate the launch of the game, Marvel and TinyCo held a Homecoming-themed celebration in downtown Los Angeles, complete with game enthusiasts, cosplayers, Avengers-themed party games, a DJ, voice talent, and the crowning of a King and Queen.
On hand to greet the crowd, Bill Rosemann, Creative Director at Marvel Entertainment, defined the game as a product of “thinking differently.”
We [had] this crazy idea,” he said. “What if we have a super-hero school, and the Avengers that you know love – Iron Man, Wasp, Captain America – what if we reimagined them as college age students?”
Rosemann called the game “a place where everyone who feels different can come together and be celebrated for being different, and become the hero they know they can be.” He viewed the game as an opportunity to reach an audience not familiar with Marvel games. “This is the kind of game we want to make. We want to make things that are different, that haven’t been done before.”
TinyCo Art Director David Nakayama described Avengers Academy as, “a hybrid between a builder and a [simulation game] -- the ability to take characters, assign actions to them, control what their doing. It’s like an evolved builder game.”
The player can upgrade their characters through training sessions and battles, expand the Academy through building structures, and can court their fellow Avengers by taking them on dates. Also available in the game’s open environment is the ability to unlock items, go on missions with other characters, and visit zones based on familiar Marvel landmarks such as Asgard.
The game creators promised that the Avengers’ personalities remain true to the spirit of their comic book and film counterparts and that character origins remained the same.
“We want what’s cool about the characters,” said Nakayama. “That’s the best part of our game. Every character has a suite of actions custom built just for them. Spider-Woman, what’s cool about her? She’s a double agent, which we address in the story. She can fly. She can shoot energy. We do all of that stuff in our game. Captain America, what’s cool about him? He’s a man out of time. So when he goes to the bar and dances, he’s dancing the Charleston. What are his actions? When he throws out that shield, he takes out two dudes at once. So when we send him out to fight robots, that’s what you’ll see.”
“We worked really closely with Marvel," Nakayama continued. "[Game writer] Allen Warner and I are gigantic Marvel fans going back 25 years, so we know these characters. Marvel was on point the whole time, making sure everything they said, what they did, and what they looked like was completely true to the characters.”
Nakayama and Warner both have past comic book pedigrees, with Nakayama having illustrating for Marvel and Warner having written for DC Comics.
Nakayama went on to praise the game’s celebrity voice talent. The game features Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka as Spider-Woman; Colton Haynes from Arrow as Thor; Community’s Alison Brie as Black Widow, WWE’s John Cena as the Hulk; Dave Franco as Iron Man; Alexandra Daddario as Wasp; Priyanka Chopra as Ms. Marvel; A$AP Rocky as Falcon; and, Bella Thorne as Tigra.
As to those wondering if and how the game connects to the greater Marvel universe, one of the Avengers holds to key to mystery.
“What the Black Widow is trying to figure out through the course of the game,” said Nakayama “is the secret that Nick Fury is hiding from everybody. What players will find out over the course of playing is how the game connects to the Marvel that we know. And it does. And there’s a reason why Avengers Academy exists.”
No school would be complete without rivals, and the Avengers Academy has them in the form of Hydra and A.I.M.
“Hydra shows up to challenge you,” explained Nakayama. “They’re a rival school, so they want to recruit the same heroes and villains that you do. Part of it recruiting the guys before they can and training them to fight.”
One thing the game instantly achieved correctly were the modified looks of the characters. Many of them are not yet in costume, yet they all retain their individual looks. Nakayama was challenged with reimagining the characters for a different environment, while keeping them instantly recognizable.
“[Designing] every character has been a challenge, particularly the older ones. You have a lot of expectations of what Captain America would have to look like. He’s got to have a lot of blue, he’s got to have the shield, he’s got to have the big star on his chest that’s white. How do you keep all that and make them young at the same time? That was really hard.”
Jeremy Horn, TinyCo General Manager, plans to keep adding to the game and take advantage of Marvel’s vast character library and universe. “It’s a game we want to update regularly, so expect a lot of really cool characters very soon.”
The game is intended to appeal to a wide spectrum of ages, targeted at both new and old Marvel fans.
“Our audience,” explained Nakayama, “is the Pixar audience or the Marvel movie audience, where you can be young and enjoy it, or can be older and get some of the jokes that are peppered in there a little bit more. Tony [Stark] is pretty crazy guy who will same some off-color stuff to make you laugh.”
One might notice that flagship character of the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man, is missing from the game. And what of the Fantastic Four and X-Men? Surely the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning (formerly Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters) would blend in perfectly with this game.
“I can neither confirm nor deny,” said Nakayama. “Stay tuned. We plan on bringing in as many Marvel characters as we can in this game.”
The question of comic book tie-in salso remains. Unfortunately, there was no news regarding any upcoming plans.
The event concluded with the crowning of cosplayed Tony Stark as Prom King and Janet Van Dyne as Prom Queen.
Avengers Academy is a free-to-play downloadable app available now on both Android and iOS platforms.