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Last fall's release of the HeroClix TabApp tried to bring together the worlds of physical and digital games, letting users place specialized figures from the HeroClix tabletop game series on an iPad screen and transport them into a game. Unfortunately, while it did a solid job of recognizing the figures, the game itself was an utter mess: Painfully repetitive, both ugly and filled with lag, and lacking the strategic spirit of the tabletop source material. The brand new HeroClix TabApp Elite forges a fresh path with distinct gameplay and much different figurine implementation, but while it's thankfully a much smoother experience, the game itself still isn't strong enough to warrant the investment.
Rather than set the specialized HeroClix figurine on the iPad screen in TabApp Elite, you'll need to purchase a plastic base, which sells for $14.99 along with a Superman figurine. Additional figures (like Batman and Wonder Woman) are sold in two-packs for $9.99. When a figure is inserted into the base, a loud sound will emanate from the speaker grate, and then the iPad app will recognize the specific effect and generate the digital version of the character in the game. The base feels flimsy, but the process works; plus, you can actually select your character's play style by rotating a physical dial on the figure itself — a very cool tweak that makes the figures a lot more meaningful this time around.
The TabApp Elite app drops any pretense of narrative or a campaign structure, instead letting you freely jump into five maps that support two gameplay modes: Survival and King of the Hill. With your primary character and a computer-controlled supporting one, you'll roam the maps from an overhead view, tapping to move as well as attack oncoming enemies with both melee and special moves. Survival matches are straight-up battles for supremacy against waves of foes, while King of the Hill places four crashed satellites on the map to protect, again from waves of goons and occasional DC Comics villains.
Regardless of play mode, the game flow proves arduously slow-paced and terribly routine. Little is required beyond tapping enemies and watching your heroes dispel them with punches and powers, aside from avoiding hazards and collecting power-ups. Getting around the map is a hassle, and with no way to move the camera (aside from a slight zoom-in/out).
It's a better play experience than the original TabApp, no doubt, but it still feels like a chore, especially with the bland presentation lacking a strong comic-inspired feel beyond the requisite cel-shading effect. The game just isn't very interesting, and twiddling a dial on a plastic Man of Steel isn't going to change that.
The bottom line. While a step up from its meek predecessor, the HeroClix TabApp Elite experience doesn't generate much excitement.
iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Ability to choose play style based on figurine dial is a cool touch. Game is an improvement over the original TabApp release.
Simplistic action gameplay lacks excitement or strategy. Without an interesting game, it hardly seems worth shelling out for the base and specialized HeroClix figurines.