Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch has proven to be irresistible to game developers, and it seems like it's only a matter of time before all the popular PC and console gaming franchises make their way to the little screen. Konami has not been shy about jumping on board, with the Frogger, Silent Hill, and Dance Dance Revolution franchises making their way to the Jesus Phone by way of their division Touch Konami.
Now the inevitable iPhone release of Konami's biggest franchise is upon us with Metal Gear Solid Touch. Hideo Kojima's espionage epic has been shrunken down to fit on a 3.5-inch touch screen. If you're wondering how this would work, you're not alone. We went in with large red question marks floating over our heads.
Metal Gear Solid Touch (iPhone)
Released: March 19, 2009
Remember how you'd sneak around, hug walls, crawl under obstacles, roll in barrels, and use stealth to take down enemies in the Metal Gear series of games? Well, you'll do none of that in Metal Gear Solid Touch. In fact, you'll start every stage with the enemy knowing exactly where you are. Seriously: you can't move. There's no camouflage or face masks or smoke screens here; it's shoot or be shot in this mobile game.
Really, it's not too different from Duck Hunt, or any other shooting gallery game. Sure, it wears the clothing of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Hell, it accurately follows the story of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. You'll even see the same enemies and bosses as MGS4. But all you're doing here is aiming and shooting. No dodging or moving. Not even reloading. Just shooting. Actually, it's closer to Time Crisis, except you're missing that cool foot pedal and machine gun.
Yep, it looks this good.
But don't let the fact that this is just a shooting gallery scare you off. In fact, Metal Gear Solid Touch doesn't really look like a shooting gallery game. Surprisingly, it looks a lot like MGS4. The settings, battlefields, and even the heads-up display seem to be variants inspired by those of the PlayStation 3 game. Enemies, vehicles and even the old man himself are rendered in three dimensions, to great effect. Explosions look great, and the attention to detail seems almost absurd for a mobile game. I'd go as far as to say that you might not even believe your eyes when you see Metal Gear Solid Touch. It's that good-looking of a game.
It's too bad that there's more going on in the looks department and a bit less in the gameplay one. Sadly, you won't get the thrill of tactical espionage, but even then, there's still a bit of fun to be had with Metal Gear Solid Touch. As you'd guess, tapping is shooting. You'll sweep your finger on the screen to move your reticule to a target, then tap to fire. What's nice is that you don't have to actually touch the reticule to aim or fire; it moves relative to your fingertip no matter where you place your finger on the screen. As in any Metal Gear game, sniping is a necessity. For the enemies way off in the distance, you make an un-pinching motion with your thumb and index finger to bring up a sniper rifle scope. Fire, and then pinch to close. Shoot a duck and you'll heal a bit. And if you're lucky to spot a little frog on the screen, take it out to equip a rocket launcher to take out the bigger enemies and vehicles.
The game is divided into acts and missions, in which your goal is to kill the enemies that pop up before they kill you. The concept is pretty simple, but you'll find that the latter levels require speed and precision. Sometimes things seem unfair when you're up against a half dozen enemies and a helicopter shooting missiles at you, but you'll eventually figure out what steps are needed to survive. In each mission, it seems like the goal is to survive for some unspecified time rather than meeting some kill objective. Somehow that makes succeeding a bit less gratifying.
You might think all the tap-to-fire action would get old, but the game does a pretty good job of keeping things fresh, or at least giving you new things to shoot at. Within the acts and missions, you'll come across all of the enemies you did in Metal Gear Solid 4. The story is there too, but instead of lengthy cutscenes, you'll get an image and some text over it. It's still the same story, and if you've played MGS4, you'll appreciate how closely the mobile game follows. Of course, some sacrifices had to be made.
If you'd like to take a break from all of that screen tapping, you can visit the "special" option, which gives you a brief history of the other Metal Gear series titles. Or hit Drebin's Shop, which is nothing like Drebin's shop in Metal Gear Solid 4. Here, the only thing you'll be using your hard-earned DP on is images and art, which can act as wallpapers with the iPhone's screenshot feature. These are nice bonuses that are sure to appeal to the Metal Gear fan, but won't hold much value to anyone else.
Even though the gameplay is simple, the controls are crisp, fast, and accurate, and this makes Metal Gear Solid Touch a lot of fun to play. But when you boil it down, you're just tapping at enemies that pop up over varied backgrounds that look something like a PlayStation 3 game you played last year. They might as well be ducks. Wait, there are ducks! If you can get over the lack of classic Metal Gear gameplay, you'll find that there's an enjoyable little game here.
Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
reviewed by Dale North