I don’t often review handheld games on this column, given that most of them are just quick cash-ins or an easy way to make money off of a successful franchise. Once in a while, a good handheld game will be made, and I’ve only reviewed a handful of them. I’ve done Resistance Retribution and have my eyes firmly set on the God of War PSP game in the near future, but I feel this place is still lacking a collective place for handheld game reviewing. I guess it comes down to two things; one that we don’t really care about handheld titles and two, they’re not meant to compete with console titles, they’re meant to compete with boredom. This makes us just a step away from boredom at all times with a bad handheld game, since many miss that message completely and try to emulate the core title’s vision.
Bioware is known for their rich universes, their deep storytelling and for generally being awesome. Microsoft is known for dispensing products into the consumer’s lap and furthering their empire across the world. What neither of them do is handheld gaming, which seems like a marriage made in hell, or a play written by a dog. We’ve had some fantastic titles come out of both studios, and it makes all of a sudden… completely weird that they join together to release a title on the iPhone… that’s like Sony deciding to release Resistance Retribution on a toaster.
The story. You are Jacob Taylor, the guy you recruit in Mass 2, and it seems he has some sort of character dysfunction. Suddenly in Mass 2, he is all complex and characteristic, and now he’s just a faceless husk for the developers just slap on to their product. Whether or not his story was planned from the beginning, or it was buckled into Mass 2 (with a few lines of dialogue) is something to ponder about. What is something more worth pondering about is what in god’s name is the point of this. You protect a cruiser, go to planets, they all say “Batarians bad, they want poison Citadel.”, then you meet Miranda from Mass 2 too (ouch unintentional alliteration). In the end, there’s no swagger or Bioware style, it’s just a shallow title with no heart.
Combat works a lot like a Miley Cyrus, in that it doesn’t. You’re supposed to click on the target you want to, and Jacob will automatically shoot to kill. You can cycle the different abilities he has on the right… thing, and then you can even pickup powerups to blah blah blah, there’s only one thing you need to know, the iPhone was not built to be a games machine. It was not built for you to play Mass Effect on and it was not certainly built for AWFUL controls in mind. The Call of Duty Zombies game for the iPhone is a hell of a hoot with friends, but this just lacks in every department. If you really want to put it into perspective, you have to tilt the thing to slide Jacob around. More than often, you’ll just die by accident or just keep sliding into something. It’s a stupid control system and doesn’t shine a candle to the triumph of Mass 2’s 360 controls.
Dialogue works much like the Saints Row games, in that it doesn’t. You’re supposed to cycle your choices, select one, and then watch the events pan out. You can try to convince people to not do stuff, but more than eight out of ten times, you can’t convince people at all. It just forwards you to the next awful combat arena, until you get the last arena and some brief cut scene happens. Surprisingly, these are visually sharp and epically stylized, I could totally see this being the main image of a handheld Bioware title. What really grinds my gears if the voice acting, or lack there of. The first line of ANY conversation is spoken by an actor/actress, but the rest has to be read on screen. Nice.
Simply put: don’t buy this or get lured in. It’s cheap but just save your money for Plants vs Zombies (squee!)