The Fantastic 4 movie is just in time for another cinematic revival of a hibernating superhero franchise. The upcoming blockbuster outlines the events of the foursome's creation and subsequent battles against the nefarious Doctor Doom. The inevitable movie-based mobile game is divided into individual missions, where you assume the role of one member of the team and use his or her unique powers to platform to the end of the level, destroy enemies, or collect objects. Fantastic 4's unique visual style and great use of the original license makes it worth playing, even if the gameplay is a little sloppy.
Fantastic 4's best aspect is its presentation, which is surprisingly unaffected by the visual style of the upcoming movie. Instead, it hearkens back to the Marvel comic book for its inspiration. This works particularly well in the cutscenes, which are a compilation of single frames that look like they could have easily been lifted from one of the series' numerous issues. In the 2D gameplay, this visual style is retained fairly well, both because of the cel-shaded appearance and the unique camera movement. As you play, the camera zooms fluidly toward and away from your character, an interesting choice for a gameplay dynamic that happens to work quite well. On a Nokia Series 60 phone, the appearance comes together quite nicely, although we found the game virtually unplayable on the Motorola V551. If your phone doesn't run the game well, the simple style becomes grossly primitive instead of appealing. Otherwise, you'll likely be impressed with the visual offering, since it's both unique and attractive on phones like the Nokia 6620. The sound doesn't fare quite so well, however. Although the theme song is fairly catchy, it plays only on the title screen, and the in-game sound-effect offerings are more annoying than worthwhile. The scratchy, unpleasant noises that surface when you attack an enemy or get fired upon could just as easily have been a mistake as the legitimate soundtrack for the game. Thankfully, this can (and should) be turned off.
The gameplay is pretty diverse, too, and it really fleshes out the game's presentation. Through each of the 13 levels, you maneuver Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing in different ways while in pursuit of various objectives. Ultimately, it's all to foil the malicious plots of Doctor Doom. The story takes you through the cosmic storm responsible for the Four's superpowers, the discovery and refinement of those powers, and the quartet's subsequent battles against the doombots. The levels typically have time limits, which make the game significantly more challenging. The time limit is the single factor that makes Fantastic 4 difficult, and there's no question the game would have been much worse without it. Some aspects of the action aren't completely tight, particularly those having to do with combat, which is generally better when it's avoided. However, there are always multiple ways to get through any objective, so you should be able to go with a style that feels comfortable to you. As you progress through the levels, you'll often come across a blue diamond, which charges up the Fantastic 4 special attacks. Each character's special attack is specific to his or her unique powers, and it will typically coincide with the level objective quite nicely. The game becomes a little bit easier when you realize that the special crystal regenerates, letting you blast your way through enemies--especially as The Human Torch, whose flame attack is quite strong.
Every completed level gives you a quarter of a Fantastic 4 emblem, that, when completed, doubles your point score. When you die, you lose both a life and an emblem, though there are infinite continues, so you won't have to worry about playing through completed levels again. Although the game's major reward is a high score that you're supposed to want to subsequently annihilate, the more interesting perk is a cheat code for the forthcoming console versions of the game. There's not really any reason to play through the game multiple times, although there is enough variety and challenge the first time through to make it interesting at least once.
Fans of the longest-running comic book of all time will appreciate getting to clobber enemies as The Thing, evading the countless minions of Doctor Doom as The Invisible Woman, rolling up into a rubber ball and bouncing around as Mr. Fantastic, and setting things aflame as The Human Torch. If the impending movie makes you yearn for the Fantastic 4 of old, the mobile game might very well scratch that itch.