07 February 2010

Metal Gear Solid

One of the bewildering things about the explosion of App Store gaming is the sheer variety of successful approaches to it: traditional mobile puzzlers and arcade games, indie experiments, full 3D ports, and games like Metal Gear Solid Touch that take the well-travelled road of licensed mobile gaming, cutting grand concepts down to bite-size.

One of the most exciting things about it is that the unique configuration of the iPhone and iPod Touch hardware - notably, its complete lack of buttons - forces everybody to start from scratch to an extent, no matter which of these routes they're taking. The conventional is simply impossible, and you could argue that the Apple platform is seeing a more complete revolution in videogame interface than the Wii or DS have.

In each mission, Old Snake takes cover behind a wall in the foreground while the usual gallery of balaclava'd goons and genetically-engineered super-soldiers pop up and take pot shots at him. You guide the crosshair to them with your finger - not directly, it can be done anywhere on the screen - and tap to fire. A certain number of enemy kills or a boss kill later, the mission's over.

A ring of colour counts down clockwise around each enemy, and when it turns from yellow to red, they fire back - and they always hit. Lifting your finger from the screen ducks Snake safe back behind cover (although walls can be destroyed by some heavy weaponry) and regenerates health slowly. Naturally, it also means you can't aim. It's a beautifully logical and well-balanced scheme, and combined with some dense enemy patterns and the clarity of the clock timers, it makes target selection more overtly strategic than in most games of this type.

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