Mini Grind: Mass Effect Galaxy
It probably says something to the quality of the Mass Effect universe that it's one of the few video game related properties that I have ever delved into the seedy Expanded Universe of, if you'll excuse my borrowed Star Wars term. In my teen years I am sorry to say that my Star Wars fandom lead me to read some truly terrible books (mostly written by Kevin J. Anderson who felt he need to come up with something to top the Death Star which resulted in the Sun Crusher). I started as I meant to go on when getting into Mass Effect by reading the novel Mass Effect: Revelation before playing the first game, which actually nearly as terrible as I was expecting. I don't seem to have had the same compulsion to delve into the Dragon Age peripheral books and web games. As much as I liked Dragon Age I think I have a bit of a Sci-Fi bias when it comes to my escapist settings.
It's with this frame of mind that I found myself playing Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone recently during a particularly boring commute. I actually bought it some months ago when it was released, but was immediately put off because of how horribly it performs. With the passing of Mass Effect 2 and the big DLC not quite here yet, I found myself attempting to ignore the often the single digit framerate to try and finally get into Galaxy. I haven't used my iPhone for too much gaming in general. I pretty much only have Mass Effect Galaxy, id's Wolfenstein RPG, and Peggle. Sam and Josh are probably going to end up convincing me I need to get Plants vs Zombies if only for Crazy Dave.
: Worst Framerate Ever
Let's get this out there right away, the first time the combat loads up it'll be running at sub 5 frames per second and will continue to run like this for the whole game. Maybe it's because I have an older iPhone 3G and it would run way better on a 3GS, but the game doesn't seem to be doing anything that should be a problem for the iPhone. The combat is pretty much just 2d spirtes shuffling around a single 2d screen, there are way more complex games on the iPhone that run way better than this so I can't really chalk it up to anything other than being shoddily coded. So far the godawful framerate hasn't made the combat particularly hard so far, but it's never fun to watch anything running as jerkily as this does.
: Mass Effect is Awesome
Everything apart from the combat is a pretty decent grating off of a full mass effect cheese. You have conversations with people where you can chose various positive, negative or inquisitive options, and there's a map screen. It also makes Mass Effect sound effects and has Mass Effect sounding music. You play as Mass Effect 2's own Jacob Taylor and meet up with Miranda pretty early on. These characters are sort of recognisable despite the completely different art style, and is nice to get some more back story for them.
: The Combat Sucks
Even during the rare moments where the screen is refreshing at a respectable rate (usually when you are down to one enemy left), all you are really doing is tilting your character around like he's a marble in a maze, and if he has line of sight with the currently selected enemy he'll start firing lasers in their general direction. There are three buttons on the right that freeze a guy, fire a grenade, and drain a guys shield. Unfortunately by the time the game registers you've pressed any of these it'll be far too late to be useful. The design of some of the rooms makes it real hard to tell which areas are walls, which are walls, and which you can walk on which for a game based on line of sight combat is a bit of an issue. Oh, the character movement is really laggy as well and I never like having to move the thing I am looking at in order to do something simple like control your character.
: Saturday Morning Cartoon
I can see the cartoony art style being quite divisive, as it certainly quite different from the main game and some people do seem to have an aversion to cartoonish graphics (see every forum thread about Wind Waker ever). For a smaller screen it works well enough, and certainly better than whatever low-res mess we would of ended up with had they made them polygonal. The game is packed with cutscenes as well which also use this art style. They've been nicely encoded and a good addition so far, they also probably make up most of the 150meg file size.
: Mass Effect is Awesome
- Saturday Morning Cartoon
: Worst Framerate Ever
- The Combat Sucks
All in all, it's really hard to recommend this game to people who aren't desperate for more mass effect. The bit of the game where fight is so un-fun that I just sit there rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth (which attracts some odd looks when on public transport) to get through it. If you are interested in more Mass Effect and don't want to read books, this is definitely an option. It's also only £1.19 which is so close to nothing that why wouldn't you get it?