Despite his nearly 90 year old frame, Stan Lee's bombastic enthusiasm and boyish excitement rarely wavers. Taking the stage during the second annual Comikaze expo in Los Angeles – a haven for nerd culture brought to the city by Stan Lee and his production company, POW! Entertainment – Lee and iOS game publisher Moonshark revealed a new property, dubbed Verticus.
Why did the creator of Spider-Man and Iron Man (amongst many others) decide to jump into the game development business? "Greed," he joyously announces to the crowd huddled to catch a glimpse of the comic book icon. Lee continues to hurl self-aggrandizing (but insincere) statements at the crowd, all in the name of fun. "Is my name big enough?" he interrupts as the reveal trailer for Verticus begins to play on a large screen behind him. The crowd laughs; Lee is the master of the room. Everyone at the event adores the man and his work, and even though he isn't serious about his own importance, all in attendance agree he should be.
Verticus, developed by ten-person and Dallas-based outfit Controlled Chaos Media, is what Moonshark CEO Matt Kozlov calls an "infinite faller." In the game, players take on the role of the titular hero, tasked with dropping from space into the core of the earth to snag a bomb that threatens to destroy the planet. Once players have safely grabbed the weapon – by avoiding and destroying enemies and obstacles on the way down – Verticus must make his way back to space and dispose of it. As the bomb is thrown away and explodes among the stars, the game's enemy force – known as the Obliterators – plant a new weapon. This string of constant up and down gameplay is designed specifically to feel familiar to players who enjoy "endless running" games like Canabalt and Jet Pack Joyride. The environment changes visually and the game gets more difficult after each trip, until the player dies.
If Verticus fails and players decide not to continue, the world is destroyed. Way to go, jerk! "You should have Stan's character flying away in a little ship screaming 'Excelsior!'" I tell the Moonshark CEO.
Lee, who helped develop story ideas and characters in the game, also voices the Mission Commander who is in constant contact with Verticus. The hero is decked out in an Iron Man-esque suit protecting him from entering and exiting the atmosphere at great speeds.
CEO Matt Kozlov says Moonshark – a start-up company with four employees – has a goal to pair mobile developers with Hollywood talent to create new entertainment possibilities. Pairing with Lee and his team at POW! Entertainment with Controlled Chaos is the first revealed partnership that could fit under that directive. Previously, the publisher workedwith Bounce House Games on the mobile game, Dance Pad.
Stan Lee's Verticus (as it's actually called) is slated to launch for iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, this fall. Kozlov says Moonshark wants to bring the Unity 3D-powered game to every screen possible, but wouldn't discuss the publisher's future plans. Kozlov wouldn't go into detail about the partnership surrounding Verticus, but says that both Moonshark and POW! Entertainment "control the character."
"We own the game," Kozlov adds. "We jointly own the world."
Kozlov does hope the series grows beyond its mobile debut. "It's just going to start as a mobile game," he says. "We believe at Moonshark that's the core of our properties. We believe we can expand beyond there. Ultimate goal is to make Verticus on every screen possible. To bring it to action toys, t-shirts... but for now, we're starting with making the game as great as we can make it."
To promote the game, Moonshark is giving fans an opportunity to get a signed Stan Lee 'Verticus' print on its new Facebook page. Enter today and tell them Joystiq sent you.