First look: Marvel Avengers Academy gameplay

Mobile developer TinyCo is best-known for its massively successful city-building game Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. A game based on Family Guy naturally skews towards an older audience, and now TinyCo sets its sights on the younger crowd with Marvel Avenger Academy.

Marvel Avengers Academy is a fully 3D city-building game starring teenage versions of Marvel's most popular heroes and villains. How much fun is running a superhero school? You can grab Avengers Academy for free (with in-app purchases) on Android and iOS right now to find out. And be sure to read our detailed impressions complete with an exclusive video interview with Marvel Games!

Meet the Heroes

Marvel Avengers Academy

Avengers Academy begins as a teenage Tony Stark joins Nick Fury's prestigious new Avengers Academy. Pepper Potts, who works as the Academy Administrator, explains that SHIELD anticipates a massive assault from the villainous Hydra organization in the near future. Only by joining the Academy and recruiting his fellow young superheroes can Tony hope to stop the Hydra threat.

Everyone primarily goes by their superhero names in-game, so Tony will be identified as Iron Man most of the time. TinyCo and Marvel worked together to design new, youthful looks for all the characters. Using their superhero names helps players recognize the new interpretations of these characters. It should also help avoid confusion over whether Ant Man and Wasp are the original comic characters or the movie versions, who are technically their successors.

Iron Man's first order of business is recruiting the winsome Wasp, who debuted on-screen in last year's Ant Man movie. Young Wasp is an energetic, self-absorbed heroine who boasts a significant online following in the game universe. To recruit her, Tony just needs to build a new phone to replace the one she has recently lost. She celebrates the new device by snapping selfies throughout the campus. Kids!

Build your Academy

Marvel Avengers Academy

As a city building game, Avengers Academy naturally involves constructing a variety of buildings and structures. The first thing players will erect is Stark Tower… Right within the walls of the Academy rather than downtown New York, but we'll roll with it. Naturally, Iron Man will research and build things in his famous home.

Other early game structures include a Blasting Range for target practice and a Club for socializing. Rather than producing resources all on their own, the buildings in Avengers Academy unlock new activities for specific characters. For instance, Iron Man and Wasp can go on a date (strictly as friends) at the club. Thus every building promises amusing new animations for our heroes. Plus you'll receive credits and/or item drops from each completed activity.

Not everyone who joins the Academy is strictly a hero, though. The third character to recruit is Thor's younger brother Loki. The god of mischief (here sanitized as an "Immortal Sorcerer") recently lost a prank war with Wasp, and he's none too happy as a result. Tony and Wasp have to repair Loki's online reputation, give him a gift, and fake an apology before he'll join up.

Marvel Avengers Academy

Interestingly, young Loki looks a bit different than his appearance in the Ms. Marvel comics. Ranking up characters changes their appearance though, in addition to unlocking new abilities. Loki's second form more closely resembles the comic version of Teen Loki. Similarly, Tony Stark won't don his full Iron Man gear until he fully ranks up.

As players progress through the game, a youthful but authentic Marvel storyline plays out through animated cutscenes, news broadcasts, and (voiceless) character dialogue. The driving narrative involves our heroes' attempt to discover Hydra's ultimate plan. Hydra bullies continually threaten the Academy students, the jerks. This culminates in a victorious battle for the good guys early on, thanks to Loki's magically-powered participation.

Marvel Avengers Academy

One huge part of Avengers Academy's appeal is collecting unique versions of your favorite Marvel characters. The launch lineup includes the aforementioned heroes, plus Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Falcon, Ant Man, Spider Woman, Vision, Maria Hill, and even villains like Taskmaster and Enchantress. Non-playable characters like Odin and Nick Fury play a role in the story as well.

As you'd expect from a city builder, Avengers Academy will receive plenty of updates in the future. With these updates will come new storylines, heroes, and villains. We asked Marvel about potential future characters; watch our video to find out which heroines might make the cut down the line!

A great looking Superhero game

Marvel Avengers Academy

The other feather in this game's cap is undoubtedly its production values. The dialog is not fully voiced, unfortunately, but each character has a selection of voice samples for specific occasions. TinyCo sprang for relatively well-known actors to voice these snippets, such as Colton Haynes (Roy on the CW's Arrow) as Thor, Dave Franco as Iron Man, and John Cena as Hulk. That's a dude who knows how to smash!

Even though dialog scenes don't have voices, they're still plenty of fun to watch thanks to Avengers Academy's excellent graphics and animation. Each hero and baddie animates with style and personality during conversations. Black Widow groans as Iron Man dotes on her, Loki struts as he brags to Wasp, and more. This really helps sell the jokes and keep conversations from feeling too static.

The Academy itself comes to life with fully 3D graphics – a huge step up from Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff's 2D visuals. Players can zoom in impressively close to take a peek at their favorite superheroes' details. And regardless of zoom distance, the wealth of animations for every activity certainly make for a lively experience (as city builders go).

Avengers Academy is a free to play game with in-app purchases. Players can choose to buy Credits (soft currency) and Shards (premium currency) with real money. Shards are mostly used to speed up activity and building times. It looks like they might also be involved in ranking up characters and buying premium outfits, though.

Avengers Academy launch party

Marvel Avengers Academy launch party photo

We recently attended TinyCo's Avengers Academy launch party, held at the Teragram Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles. The publisher decorated the ballroom to resemble an actual high school gymnasium. Well, the Avengers Academy gym, anyway. Marvel decorations adorned the walls, and attendees participated in themed games like a Frisbee throw using Captain America's shield.

Several members of the game's voice cast attended the event, including Colton Haynes (Thor), Alexandra Diddario (Wasp), and Kiernan Shipka (Spider Woman). Meanwhile, a host of cosplayers dressed as cool and/or bizarre versions of familiar Marvel characters. Several members of the development team were on-hand, showcasing the game for attendees and letting us try it for ourselves.

Marvel Avengers Academy

For Marvel fans, a new game is a big deal. Marvel Games and TinyCo seem to have produced a game that casual gamers and city building fans will love. Let's hope Marvel's recent gaming initiative eventually leads to not only standout mobile titles like Avengers Academy, but also core titles to rival DC's Arkham and Injustice series as well.

You can get Marvel's Avengers Academy right now on Android and iOS. And stay tuned for the upcoming Valentine's event starring Hulk and Black Widow. Yep, they're bringing the romance from Avengers: Age of Ultron to life on phones and tablets!

Paul Acevedo