Barring another dominant performance from The Avengers, the top movie this weekend should be Men in Black 3 (sorry, Chernobyl Diaries), the big-budget sequel starring Will Smith and a whole bunch of computer-generated aliens. To capitalize on this potential success, Gameloft has a Men in Black 3 video game for iOS and Android. Even better, it’s free. Just don’t go into this title expecting to run around blasting bad guys.
Oddly enough, the game revolves around the simulation aspect of operating your own MIB agency and a heavy dose of time management. There’s combat, but the developers limit this to turn-based battles, where you and slimy-looking enemies trade shots at each other as you equip different health packs and weapons.
That aside, Men in Black 3 plays more like Farmville and Big Time Gangsta. You build the agency from the ground up by placing different departments within a limited grid, creating an armory, gadget workshop, infirmary, evaluation room, firing range, zero G trainer and a plethora of other services; there’s even a fast food joint.
The goal? Research new technologies that’ll imbue your character and others (you can train new agents and send them on missions) with different weapons with names like Fat Nancy, the Temporal Pulse, Dark Plasma Gun and the humorous Noisy Cricket from the original Men in Black. That said, these things require you to reach a certain level to unlock and various amounts of time; you can’t make use of the Fat Nancy, for instance, until reaching level 10, while some missions may force you to wait 30 minutes.
Fortunately, Gameloft provides a slew of objectives to complete, inspired by the movie’s time-traveling plot. This involves visiting 1969 and 2012 versions of New York City, where you’ll have more than enough tasks to keep busy, from interrogating aliens to squashing outer space cockroaches, stopping for a bite to eat and wiping away the memories of countless witnesses using the Neuralyzer. There’s little interaction involved, you merely tap something or someone to instantly perform the activity, but at least it takes your mind off whatever’s going on at headquarters.
Naturally, there’s a hook. You need energy to beat these missions, and this also replenishes (albeit slowly) over time, forcing you to cough up some real-world dough to acquire T-Pulses that allow you to buy more. The same goes for gold coins that go towards stocking up on supplies and purchasing equipment; Gameloft is more than ready to accept your payment(s). Granted, you don’t need to spend a dime playing Men in Black, but things will move significantly faster if you do.
Finally, there’s a social aspect, where you can invite friends to assist in the fight against a particularly pesky alien, or to simply visit your agency, and vice versa. Nothing revolutionary, by any means, but at least you can see how others play the game/decorate.
Taking all of this into account, Men in Black 3 isn’t bad by any means, but it also doesn’t stand out, either. We can’t hate on Gameloft for going simulation heavy instead of creating a third-person shooter; the App Store has plenty of both. At the same time, there’s a strictly enforced limit on how much you can play if you refuse to spend money, and with that being said, us cheapskates discovered the appeal wore off quicker than we expected. Fun, but only in short play sessions.