July 09, 2011, 6:39 AM — I approach iOS-ified versions of classic arcade and console games with a healthy mixture of anticipation and trepidation. On the one hand, it's nice to see all those games I wasted all those hours playing in my misspent youth making an appearance in my slightly less misspent adulthood. On the other hand, the graphics and gameplay of two or three decades ago doesn't always translate well to Apple's state-of-the-art handhelds.
That's been my mindset as I took a mutated stroll down memory lane with X-Men, the early '90s arcade stalwart that Konami Digital Entertainment ported over to the iPhone and iPad. (The game runs in optimized form on both devices, though—screen size, aside, plays the same no matter which iOS handheld you use.) Konami has done a great job recreating the look and feel of the old arcade game in iOS form, from the controls to the soundtrack to the Saturday morning cartoon-style voice work. But anyone looking for anything beyond a pleasant serving of nostalgia is going to come away from X-Men disappointed.
In case you were more frugal with your quarters than I was back in the day, X-Men lets you control one of six mutants (Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Night Crawler, and Dazzler) in a battle against evil forces commanded by Magneto. You fight your way through each stage, with a boss—an X-Men villain like Pyro or The Blob—waiting for you at the end. Really, the plotline—which includes a kidnapping of Professor X—is incidental; this game really exists so you can go around punching baddies.
You've got four buttons at your disposal—a d-pad for moving your X-Man around the screen, a jump button, an attack button for delivering righteous punches and kicks, and a final button that unleashes your mutant power on your enemies. That latter button saps you of energy, as does getting punched, kicked and shot by Magneto's minions. Lose too much energy, and you'll squander one of the eight lives you get at the start of each game.
Konami does a fine job of translating X-Men's arcade controls to the iOS's touch interface. The onscreen buttons rarely get in the way of action, and only a few times did my notoriously fat fingers land on the jump button when I meant to do some punching. Konami includes a work-around for clods like me, though—the ability to customize where on the screen the virtual buttons appear.