App Review: Mass Effect Galaxy

title=Mass Effect

For its latest title, EA (s erts) has brought Bioware’s Mass Effect to iPhone. This installment builds on the story from the original critically acclaimed console game.

Set in the same universe as the original console game, Mass Effect Galaxy features a rich story peppered with action-packed gunplay.
As you’d expect with a game set in the Mass Effect universe, the game is driven by a strong plot, leading you from one shoot out to the next. Imagine an episode of 24 set in outer-space featuring feuding alien races, with you as an intergalactic Jack Bauer.

Talk First, Shoot Later

The story is compelling, but the conversation branching — being able to guide your character through interactive dialogue scenes — seems like smoke and mirrors. More often than not it seems thst there’s a predetermined outcome to a conversation and that there’s nothing that can be done to change it.
Setting dialogue navigation aside though, the artwork and animation is impeccable. Instead of going for hi-res 3D motion graphic sequences, we’re treated to a cartoony take on the Mass Effect universe. Indeed it was so effective that I was left hankering for a Mass Effect Saturday morning cartoon.

Tilt ‘n’ Tote

The combat sequences, slotted in between each dialogue segment, are played from a birds-eye view. The controls are a great twist on an established genre: your mercenary fires automatically, it’s up to you to tilt the iPhone, moving him to a more strategic area of the map.
Unfortunately, on my iPhone 3G, the combat sequences suffer from slowdown. At times, the game is rendered unplayable to the point that I rebooted the iPhone several times throughout the game. Plus, the game suffers from an occasional bug whereby a combat sequence begins but you’re unable to control the main character. It’s a horrid bug and, for EA and BioWare, unexpected and improper.
There are also long loading times between combat rooms. Its frustrating enough to have to wait a minute or more to play through a 30 second sequence, it’s worse still that EA has seen fit to place advertisements on the loading screens. It’s a real drag to be advertised to in a premium app, especially when the advertising breaks up the story and ruins what little immersion the game has to offer.

Summing Up: Rotten Apple Award

EA needs to up its game on iPhone. It may be the big boy on console and PC, but young upstarts like ngMoco, Chillingo and BulkyPix are making better games — games that are fun and stable.
Gamers who are familiar with Mass Effect would be forgiven for expecting more from the iPhone iteration. The game’s bugs are a major disappointment and, while it may be an interesting play for avid followers of the franchise, this is one to avoid for everyone else.