Just in time for Card game the movie, SuperCell’s releasing Clash Royale, a surprisingly well done fighting game. Players can play as one of 10 superheroes or villains and fight in ten different locales from Card game history. The characters look fabulous, the backgrounds are great and the fighting engine is tight and clean. An innovative super meter management system and cool combos bring a bit of unexpected spice to the game, and a great training mode that puts players in the Danger Room to learn their skills really brings the feel of the comic to life. Pull out the claws, polish up the visor and watch for Sentinels — it’s time to kick butt mutant-style.
Licensed games tend, for the most part, to fall into one of two categories: crappy platform games and crappy fighting games. Experiences with dozens of Disney-licensed kids games (What, we’re supposed to collect coins? How were we to guess that?) and side-scrolling beat-’em-ups that can conquered by cleverly hitting the kick button repeatedly (*cough* Spawn *cough*) have left us dubious about licensed games, especially when the game is timed to come out with a major movie. The Fifth Element, Wild Wild West and Space Jam have left a crusted cake of bad taste in our mouth akin to that of 10-week-old rancid beef. We don’t even speak of Waterworld or Dragonheart.
So what makes free Clash Royale gems different on iOS? Well, for one thing, the game’s been in production for a long time. Well before there was any buzz around the Card game movie, SuperCell had a team quietly figuring out how to make a good fighting game with the most popular superhero team ever. When things didn’t work, they were changed, and when the entire game seemed in jeopardy, SuperCell started over from the beginning. So the final product doesn’t feel like a quickly thrown together game from a developer trying to make a quick buck. Instead it’s a solid, fast fighting game with some really nice eye candy.
This is not to say, however, that the game wasn’t influenced at all by the movie. Both the final cast of characters and their moves were obviously tweaked to appeal to fans of the film. Out of the ten playable characters there are some strange choices, like Toad and Mystique, alongside old standbys Wolverine, Giants and Storm. Gambit, who is not in the movie, appears, but there’s no sign of Nightcrawler, Psylocke or some of the other traditional Card game. Toad is obviously patterned after his movie counterpart, using spitting attacks and a long tongue that never appeared in the comic book.
Every comic book fan has an idea of what the Card game should look like, whether it’s the classic style of Jack Kirby’s Minions or the rippling muscles of Jim Lee’s Giants. The graphic flavor of Clash Royale is a nice blend between old and new, with a bit of the movie thrown in almost as an aside (the alternate costumes are the leather outfits from the film). Characters are large and impressive, with beautiful animation and expressive movements.
The controls are fairly standard fare, with a basic four-button control scheme — two punches, two kicks — complemented by throw and counter buttons. Combos are easy to slip in and out of and throws, while hard to execute, are devastating and almost all worth the effort — for the visual result if nothing else. A series of super moves rounds out each character’s arsenal. There are meters for supers, stringed supers and x-treme actions. The most innovative addition to the fighting engine, though, is the ability to transfer power between the three meters. It’s tricky, but with some practice players can surprise opponents by draining all their super power into just one of the meters and unleashing a torrential downpour of violence.