At some point, somewhere along the development tree, someone must have voiced concern over condensing the essence of one of 2007’s biggest RPGs into TV episode-style mini-game. Sadly for us that person either got the boot or was just plain ignored, for Mass Effect Galaxy (MEG) came storming into the App Store with all of the bravado and flair of its older sibling but none of the gameplay and enjoyment.
Perhaps we're being too harsh on MEG; after all there are essentially two different ways to view the game. Judging it by the same mandate that won the original Mass Effect the hearts and loyalties of many a gamer, the game unequivocally lends itself to bitter disappointment. Gone is the over the shoulder view point, the in-depth upgrade tree, weapon customisation and squad management (as well as a whole host of other things). In its place is simple top down shooter gameplay that strips away nearly all control from the player (moving is handled by tilting the accelerometer – shooting and aiming are done automatically) and levels that never branch out any further than the size of the screen. The central character, Jacob, is a biotic and as such has access to a number of special powers such as shield disrupters and missile launchers. Unfortunately, using any one of these powers in combat causes the game to grind to a halt as you pitifully watch the less then impressive visuals go beyond the limits of what the game can do.
There is a second way to look at MEG, and that’s as downloadable content for Mass Effect 2. Interspersed between MEG’s ungainly ‘gameplay’ sections is a prequel storyline that sheds light on events that lead up to Bioware’s forthcoming next-gen title. Told through a series of neat animations (that aren’t too dissimilar from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoons) and interactive dialogue segments, the story is actually the one feature of the game that works well. To further add to the idea that MEG is merely a subsidiary experience to the next-gen titles, completion of the game unlocks an exclusive reward in Mass Effect 2.
It's rare to be able to say that stripping out sections of a game could actually improve it (especially on a title that is less than two hours long) but we can’t help feeling MEG’s awful combat waters down what is in essence a very stylistic interactive animation. Die hard fans desperate for more information on the Mass Effect universe are bound to get enjoyment out of the game, but for anyone else looking for an experience akin to the Xbox 360 title, Mass Effect Galaxy couldn’t be further removed.