Marvel: Contest of Champions Offers Fluid Fighting

Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Marvel-based fighting games have a rich and storied history, from the pixelated action of 1994's X-Men: Children of the Atom to the far more eye-catching and chaotic team battles of 2011's Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. While licensing issues with Capcom mean that we might not see a big-budget Marvel brawler on consoles anytime soon, fighting fans can take solace in the new free-to-play mobile title Marvel: Contest of Champions.

Due out in December, this iOS and Android brawler lets you punch Hulk in the face with a few simple screen swipes, while packing neat touches that fans of nuanced fighting games will appreciate. 

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If you've played the mobile version of DC Comics fighter Injustice: Gods Among Us, then Contest of Champions will fit you like a spandex glove. You tap, swipe and hold down on the right side of the screen to perform strikes at various strengths, and can block attacks by holding down on the left side of the screen. Unlike Injustice, Contest of Champions allows players to dash backward and lunge forward with quick swipes, offering a faster and more fluid sense of movement than that of Warner Bros' popular brawler.

As with many fighters, Contest of Champions gives you a super meter at the bottom of the screen that fills up with each successful attack. Fill that meter all the way and you can unleash crushing super moves, which provide the game's most gratifying moments. Whether I made Deadpool answer a phone call before shooting his opponent in the face, or saw Wolverine unleash a barrage of claw slashes on a foe, I couldn't help getting a bit giddy every time I successfully deployed a super.

Inspired by a 1980s comic run of the same name, Contest of Champions' story revolves around The Collector (as seen in Marvel's recent movies), who has summoned heroes and villains from all over the Marvel Universe to take down longtime comic villain Kang. As explained to me by one of the game's creators, this gives players an excuse to put together just about any team imaginable from the game's vast roster.

In my short time with the game, I was able to play as and against dozens of iconic Marvel characters, from mainstays Spider-Man and Hulk to new favorites like Star-Lord and Winter Soldier and classic comic characters such as Black Bolt and the Vision.

Contest of Champions has a gorgeous, cartoony aesthetic, sporting some neat lighting effects and plenty of detail in characters' costumes. You can build up your fighters with every battle, with stat bonuses that activate when you pair up characters with special relationships, such as the romantic duo of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.

Marvel: Contest of Champions was made by a team that lives and breathes both Marvel and fighting games, and that passion is evident everywhere from the fluid gameplay to the care put into Wolverine's yellow spandex suit. I had a blast trading blows with Marvel's most famous characters, and look forward to more on-the-go fisticuffs when the full game launches in early December. 

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. His favorite super hero is Hawkeye. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook.