|Mass Effect Galaxy|
|Genre||Tilting space action|
|Score||6 Gameplay: 6
Fun Factor: 5
It can be frustrating when your current favorite series releases a spin-off on a platform you don't own; this has happened to me before with Metal Gear Acid on the PSP, and now it happens again with Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone. Considering the game only costs three dollars, the barrier to playing is either cough up $200 for an iPod Touch or try to find someone who will give up their Precious for a few hours. I managed to convince someone of the latter, and the portable action RPG is finally in my hands.
Mass Effect Galaxy is an iPhone spin-off of the popular space epic series released in June. It introduces two brand new characters, Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, who are the new major squad members in Mass Effect 2. The gameplay is top-down action similar to the run-and-gun games of old but features the extensive dialogue system from the console big brother. Much like the novels, Galaxy is meant as a bonus for those of us who are looking for any kind of hit we can get while we wait for the sequel to arrive in January. Here's my review of Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone.
What I liked: Even though the universe is presented from an entirely different perspective and the art style is completely new, Mass Effect Galaxy still feels like it's a sequel to the original. Through a combination of the biotic power, Overload tech, and the horde of batarians, it all felt right. I'm playing as an engineer right now in the original Mass Effect game and my strategy in both games is pretty similar: knock out the shields of the closest enemy and start blasting away at their health. I was never much of a fan of Stasis in the original... and lo and behold, I didn't really use its equivalent move in Galaxy. The new heavy weapon was also great to use, and the splash damage incredibly effective, even against yourself accidentally.
The art style was great, in my opinion. The console version's style was obviously not going to work well on the small screen, and BioWare was smart to do something vibrant with dark outlines and long curves. The main characters, Jacob and Miranda, are well detailed, but the cast of batarians really shine. In Mass Effect, we only saw the batarian race in the downloadable content, Bring Down the Sky, and they all looked pretty much the same. In Mass Effect Galaxy we see wide variety of batarians, including a fat one! The art style really lends itself to caricaturing species in the Mass Effect universe.
Half of the game is spent speaking with other characters and selecting dialogue options similarly to the paragon/renegade system in Mass Effect. The system works well enough for the portable screen but I really felt myself missing the ability to see all my options at once. In Mass Effect Galaxy you have to scroll through the choices and view them one at a time, though there is a helpful icon (thumbs up/down, question/exclamation mark) that helps you identify what is available to say. One of the best features of the system is that you can tap the bottom of the screen to keep the text moving quickly, and more often than not, you'll tap the default dialogue choice before you have the chance to read it and the game will not trigger your selection! This is a great feature that allows the player to move the conversation along at the speed they like to read at while protecting them from accidentally selecting an option before they get a chance to think about it. This was a bit of a problem in the original Mass Effect (and plagued a game like Suikoden II).
What I didn't like: I'm not sure how I feel about tilting the iPhone to move around. This was the first iPhone game I ever played and the entire system felt awkward in general. Poking at the screen with my fingers covers up exactly what I'm supposed to be paying attention to, and it's definitely not as responsive and accurate as I would like. And as for the tilting... it worked, and after about ten minutes I had the intricacies of the system worked out, but it seems like a sorry replacement for a D-pad or joystick. I wouldn't have minded seeing a more expanded version of Galaxy on the Nintendo DS so I would have better control.
The game auto-targets and auto-shoots for you. While this may seem like everything was completely dumbed down, you've got enough to worry about with just moving around and dodging bullets. The problem with the auto-target is that the game often targets the non-optimal enemy, leaving you to try and target the closest and correct bad guy by poking at the screen a few times. It's a bit of a mess, and you'll die quite a few times, though the game auto-saves between every room making replays a snap.
Mass Effect Galaxy spends a lot of time loading. I guess I'm used to the Nintendo DS which never shows me a loading screen.
We're also introduced to new characters from Mass Effect 2, Jacob and Miranda. Jacob is the playable character but Miranda just sits on the ship and gives directions. It's a missed opportunity that we're not able to at least see her in action, especially since she's based off Yvonne Strahovski, Sarah from Chuck.
A bit awkward with the tilt feature needed to move around (Nintendo tried this years ago with Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble and never again, for obvious reasons) and the targeting system a bit daft, but it still feels like I'm playing a Mass Effect game.
Fun Factor: 5
The controls hamper everything and the constant switching between dialogue and action stops the game from finding a solid pace. But the gameplay is honestly fun while it works.
Graphics and Sound: 9
Galaxy features just a bit of voice acting, some great little pieces of music, and a wonderful art style that suits the game perfectly on the iPhone. I wouldn't have minded more detailed animations, but it feels like a successful cross between a cartoon and comic book. I'm just sad the death music didn't make it onto the handheld. I died enough that I missed it every time.
The game is less than two hours long so there's only so much time for action and story, but I was satisfied with what was there. I enjoy anything with batarians and they're featured as the main enemies throughout the game. It's also confirmed that humanity now has a seat on the Citadel Council.
Mass Effect Galaxy is unfortunately flawed in too many ways to make this a must play game. While being the crazy Mass Effect fan that I am, and for all my loyal readers out there, I considered it a duty and sought out any way I could to get my hands on an iPhone for a few hours. The gameplay is troubling and doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the platform, but the story introduces the two new major characters in Mass Effect 2 and gives them a little background (along with a romantic ending!). The game can be fun while it's rolling though and is better money well spent than something like Pinnacle Station. But really, if you want more Mass Effect, just read the books.