Catalyst Black review – Is this the next big mobile game?

Lloyd Coombes
Catalyst Black screenshot showing a Primal in combat

Catalyst Black is a team-based shooter built for mobile devices, but is it worth the download?

While mobile games may have earned a less than stellar reputation over the last decade, every now and then a new title emerges that challenges those preconceptions. Whether that’s Legends of Runeterra, Monument Valley, or Hearthstone, there are excellent games to be found on the platform.

Catalyst Black is another entry into that list, offering a team-based shooter that eschews the genre’s battle royale fascination to create something arcadey and tactical in equal measure. It’s not perfect, but in the time we spent playing ahead of launch, it was tough to put down.

Catalyst Black – Key details

  • Price: Free-to-play
  • Developer: Super Evil Megacorp
  • Release date: May 25, 2022
  • Platforms: iOS, Android

Catalyst Black trailer

Beautiful and deadly

Catalyst Black screenshot showing a waterfall
Catalyst Black is frequently beautiful.

Catalyst Black makes a great first impression, with menus that are bursting with color, and an art style that feels somewhere between Dreamworks and Fortnite. Characters have a clean, chiseled look to them, and they wield oversized guns. Heroes are customizable, too, with the potential for thousands of alternate loadouts.

At first glance, Catalyst Black falls somewhere between a twin-stick shooter and a MOBA, two genres defined by their precision. Thanks to excellent touch controls, though, neither of those aspirations feel like a step too far.

Sure, as with most mobile games, a static screenshot covered in buttons is less than ideal, but after a short tutorial, we found ourselves shooting, dodging, and picking up ammo like it was second nature. Heavy ammo lets you deal damage to a larger area, too, making it worth tracking down.

One of Catalyst Black’s most enjoyable mechanics is transformation, letting players turn into one of six huge Primals that deal massive damage. Unleashing your Primal can turn the tide of a battle, but they aren’t invincible. Once your Primal is slain, you’ll revert back to your human form and be left exposed from all angles if you were too aggressive with your push.

There are also launch pads that can send you flying across the map to allow for tactical retreats and aggressive flanking maneuvers. Combat is fun, with great, subtle vibration feedback and double damage multipliers handed out like candy. That makes it fun to fight through maps on your way to the highest kill count, sure, but the real depth of Catalyst Black can be found in its other modes.

Play the Objective

Catalyst Black screenshot showing on-screen controls
Trust us when we say it’s easier to understand what’s going on than you may think.

While the standard Slayer (team deathmatch mode) is a little formulaic, adding objective-based rounds to the mix makes the combat shine even further.

Hydra pits two teams of five together, with the objective of destroying an enemy Overseer. It’s closer to a MOBA in that both teams are working toward opposite ends of a map with the same objective, but it’s fraught with tension since you can also win by killing an opponent three times; once they’re out, they’re out, and when you’re being chased down with just one life left, things can be incredibly tough.

Eventide is a 24-player mode with a huge battlefield where players work to overrun a central fortress while battling each other as well as PvE enemies. Players can contribute by killing enemies and bosses, or capturing resources and outposts around the map. Once a team reaches a point threshold, a Final Harvest is triggered which will see players lose points unless they hold outposts.

Finally, PvE only players can enjoy a Colosseum where they can squad up with friends to test their skills against all kinds of monsters. Super Evil Megacorp has promised that modes will rotate regularly, too.

All of this is underpinned by Catalyst Black’s drop-in/drop-out setup which means you can join friends within seconds. That makes the game ideal for short commutes, but the longer-term customization and unlock system is likely to keep you coming back for more.

On that note, while Catalyst Black does offer a rotating store, many of the game’s weapons and rewards can be earned through accrued XP, while a free currency called Dust can level gear up. Then there are Shards earned from breaking existing gear down, and Quint which is earned from quests. Marks, the game’s premium currency, rounds out the quartet.

It’s a fair amount to get your head around at first, but the key thing to note is that anything that can affect gameplay can be earned in-game without spending money. In our time with Catalyst Black playing alongside other early access players, we didn’t spot anything that felt unfair.


Catalyst Black is gorgeous to look at and fun to play, with an impressive amount of depth behind its simple drop-in/drop-out gameplay loop. It’s the epitome of “one more game”, and while its Slayer mode is solid, its objective-based modes allow it to really shine.

Reviewed on iOS (iPhone 13 Pro Max)

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