MultiVersus looks more like a branded Twitter account than a video game

In October 2017, Goku, the main character of Dragon Ball, achieved a form called Ultra Instinct. This ability allowed him to dodge almost any attack. He looked really cool. In the weeks since the reveal, fans have created memes of characters from other franchises edited to look like they’re turning on Ultra Instinct. Early entries included fun shenanigans like Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man, eSports player Faker, and Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy.

While Ultra Instinct Shaggy was a meme to some, MultiVersus took it as a call to action. Warner Bros. new Smash-like platformer MultiVersus treats Shaggy’s Dragon Ball-inspired transformation as a core part of his character. It’s touching to know that the devs are watching the same memes as the fans. In a way, this became the basis for a full-fledged video game.

With MultiVersus, licenses are valued above all else. Characters are pets first and fighting game characters second. Shit, how did Lebron James get into the game? He’s a real human being! Part of Super Smash Bros.’ charm is what the embedded universes feel like. In Smash Bros, Street Fighter’s Ryu produces stronger attacks when you perform joystick maneuvers, just like he does in his own game. There are a bunch of examples like that – you can even loop through the Sonic’s Green Hill area! Smash is like playing with a toy box, while MultiVersus is more like an FYC Emmy campaign than a game.

But it’s not just the characters that are missing; the stages are bare. They are filled with minimal decorations and laid out much the same with one to two platforms. Scooby-Doo gets a generic haunted house with framed photos of past villains, and the Batcave includes a big computer, memorabilia, and two Batmobiles. That’s it. There’s so much you can do with either space, but in MultiVersus you might as well run into an empty box.

Despite all that, the skins and announcer packs are both amazing customizations that should instantly spark joy. It’s great to hear Kevin Conroy’s Batman say things like “Match Point” or fight as Adventure Time’s female counterpart Jake Cake as a skin – Cake’s skin even includes a brand new vocal track. While both of these additions are obviously nice, they’re hidden behind paywalls.

At the end of the day, MultiVersus feels like a Twitter brand – a game made by someone who gets the general vibe of each franchise involved without necessarily enjoying it. And when it gets close to having fun, the game immediately puts that joy behind a paywall.

If you want cool stuff, you need Gleemium, MultiVersus’ premium currency to buy the most thoughtful things in the game. Gleemium can’t be earned by enjoying fights with your boys or logging hours of quick gameplay; you have to buy it with real hard and stumbling money. It looks like “premium” but I guess…with more glow, whatever that means.

MultiVersus lures you in with the promise of being a weird yet polished fighting game. One way or another, the entire Warner Bros. is available. Even characters from shows produced by Warner Bros. like Ted Lasso could potentially join. Shit, maybe even Larry David! It’s funny. You can easily share a screenshot of MultiVersus with a caption like “how is this possible?” which is ultimately half the battle for a game like this.

But while the weirdness might land you out the door, once you get there, the game feels like it’s doing everything it can to get the last dollar out of your wallet. First with Nickelodeon’s All-Star Brawl, and now with MultiVersus, video game developers – uh, actually more like media conglomerates – are learning in real time that the appeal of Smash Bros has always been that the game is really fun to play.

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Raymond I. Langston