Teasingly, the guys at Warner Bros. Entertainmemt have released the Mortal Kombat X app a good week or so ahead of the Xbox ONE, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC launch and while it seems like a similar beast on first look, it turns out to be a completely different kettle of bludgeoned, diced-up and bloody kettle of fish. The bad news though is that it just doesn’t come close to capturing the brutal brilliance and frenetic action of the classic fighting game at all and leaves you hoping that the full console game will pick up the bruised and shattered remains of your expectations and reassemble them with epic precision when it arrives on the 14th April 2015.
The game hit the Apple iOS App Store and iTunes on the 7th April 2015, tempting a lot of eager gamers with the prospect of playing it ahead of the full release, within the confines of mobile gaming. However, those confines have been so constrained as to throttle the life out of the app and result in a flash tapping slap-em-up that is anything but exciting. It’s a free game, so it’s not going to cost you anything to give it a try, as long as you don’t go bananas on in-app purchases through the store, but don’t expect a true MK battle ahead of you.
While the story hasn’t necessarily been all that vast and sprawling in any of the core Mortal Kombat fighting releases of the past, it is an important element, but in the iOS app it barely features, except for a brief intro video with Scorpion pummeling Sub-Zero. While it looks good – it’s the teaser trailer that’s been doing the rounds online for some time – there’s no element of the story behind the tournament, which leaves the game feeling shallow and without any real direction.
All games, including iPhone/iPad apps live and die by their playability and it’s here that Mortal Kombat X really lets the franchise down. The main action you’ll find yourself doing is tap tap tapping the screen to fire off an indiscriminate attack from your character in the hopes that it’s doing some good against your opponent. The same tap could result in either a kick or a punch, in any variety or combination, without any way of controlling the variation, which makes it a little too devoid of involvement in the combat. A big part of the joy of playing a fighting game is in controlling all of the intricate moves, combos and special attacks at your disposal and that just isn’t present in the iOS game.
The vague salvation from this is the addition of special moves, which build up as you strike hits on your opponent. When the little meter in the bottom left hand corner of the game fills up you can unleash a devastating move, which in itself requires some precision tapping and rapid fire swiping to deliver the optimum blow. It’s not enough on its own to salvage the fortunes of the game, but it does make this a little more interesting.
The only other moves at your disposal are a two fingered tab block and a tag out to one of your three characters in your team. These are important in terms of the strategy of the game, as resting players and knowing when to block big attacks will help you to get through the myriad levels.
The game slowly gets progressively more difficult as you move through the battle towers, which themselves get tougher as you get closer to the top of the tower where the stronger fighters are. As well as getting smarter in terms of their attacking and blocking know-how, they also take much less damage, so it takes a lot more effort to bring them down, and by effort we mean more tap tap tapping. It does however bring in an element of strategy into the mix as you will need to combine tags, blocks, attacks and special moves well to defeat the tougher teams and the bigger bosses, which results in the hilarity of the finishing moves. Sadly, though, you don’t have too much control over these either. There’s no special combination of taps, swipes and moves to deliver different finishing moves; you just follow the simple tap or swipe instruction on the screen to unleash it, which takes a little more of the fun out of the equation.
There’s a large character roster that you can build up by collecting coins and souls, which you can exchange in the store. You start off with a simple team and then you can add variants of Oni, Jacqui Briggs, Reptil, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Kano, Kung Jin, D’vora, Sonya Blade, Cassie Cage, Kotal Kahn, Scorpion, Ermac, Jax Briggs, Kenshi and Kitana to your roster as you go. It gives you a little incentive to try to mad tap your way through the slight monotony of the game, but the sad news is that when you get them there’s not much more to look forward to.
The game is superficially quite a good looking outing, which you’d sort of expect from the whopping 1.2gb file size you’ll need to hive off to download it. The characters are well rendered, the backgrounds are impressive and the special and finishing moves are as cool looking as ever. It’s just a shame it doesn’t play a lot better.
The main point that we want to make in our review of the app is that the full Mortal Kombat X game is out on Xbox ONE and PS4 on Monday the 14th April 2015 and it’s hopefully well worth the wait. The iOS game does very little to add to the experience and while it looks the part, in terms of the initial visuals, it’s turned out to be a turkey in a chicken hawk suit and it’s the hawk you want, not the under-prepared gobbler wearing make-up. It’s been tough going for fighting games when it comes to touch screen mobile controls and while others like the Street Fighter 4 iPhone game have also failed a little due to the sometimes clunky nature of pulling off the moves, at least they give you freedom to explore.
Mortal Kombat X iOS app review: 2/5