Marvel Avengers Academy Review

The Avengers: Tapped Out

Marvel Avengers Academy

Marvel Avengers Academy is simultaneously everything that's right and wrong with mobile gaming. It's accessible, made for bite-sized moments, and boldly dares to do something different with familiar characters, meeting with wonderful results. 

But it's also shallow, uninspired, and bogged down in wait timers that make it impossible to progress.

What's It Like?

If you've played The Simpsons: Tapped Out or Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, you'll know exactly what to expect from Marvel Avengers Academy. In fact the developer behind the latter, TinyCo, is also the studio behind this Marvel release.

Players will slowly build up a town (or in this case, campus), unlocking new characters and assigning them to quests that amount to little more than waiting for a timer to expire so you can collect the rewards. These rewards, in turn, can let you unlock more buildings, characters, or upgrades for both.

Despite the success that this game's clear inspirations have had, this is a fairly dated formula in 2016. Wait timers are largely going the way of the dinosaur, so to build a game around wait timers feels incredibly out of touch. And the wait timers here can be long. Sometimes absurdly so. Even early in the game, you can have end up assigning your characters to two and four hour tasks, rendering the game virtually unplayable until they're complete.

At best, Marvel Avengers Academy is a game that can be played in one minute spurts throughout the day. Sullying matters further, most of the game's story is locked behind absurd requirements that force you to grind through mundane missions again and again. Recruiting a new character might ask you to collect 15 of one thing, 20, of another, hundreds of coins and complete a special mission — and the overall story isn't really going to progress much until you do. And with quests typically doling out one or two of the needed items, or a few dozen coins, it seems to take forever to accomplish anything.

That Sounds Terrible

In some ways, yes. But if you can push through the frustration imposed by wait timers and seemingly arbitrary roadblocks, the story and presentation are rock solid. This is a fun, silly twist on The Avengers that retains everything you love about these characters and infuses it with the unbridled optimism and social awkwardness of adolescence.

Every bit of story that dripped out put a smile on my face, and the voice acting that accompanied it reads like a Hollywood A-List. Black Widow is voiced by Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men). Iron Man is Dave Franco (possibly the next Han Solo). The Hulk — should I ever manage to unlock him — is WWE Superstar John Cena. And these performances aren't phoned in, either. I'd argue they're the strongest part of the game. Even the quips that get repeated ad naseum kept me smiling throughout, never attaining that grating feeling that so many mobile games with recycled lines do.

The art style is also to be commended. Rather than mimicking something in the existing universe, the development team really embraced a look that captures the youthful exuberance of the product. Combine this with the game's great storytelling and voice acting, and you have the makings of a cartoon I'd watch religiously.

Should I Play It?

If you're a Marvel Comics fan, the answer is a resounding yes. The endless waiting, minimal gameplay, and ridiculous unlock requirements are going to make this a slow-paced experience — but you'll enjoy what's offered here in spite of all that.

If you don't really care for comic books, though? Skip it. There will no doubt be plenty to do once you stick with the game for a few months (as was the case with The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff), but if the Marvel license doesn't appeal to you, there's little to entice you to stick with Marvel Avengers Academy for the long haul.