iPhone App Video Review: M.U.S.E.

by Andrew Koziara

M.U.S.E. is a new third person shooter developed by Lab Rats Studios and published by Ayopa. It's sure to draw many comparisons to Shadowgun, and rightfully so, as they feel very similar. While M.U.S.E. has some decent graphics, a few interesting mechanics, and some redeemable qualities, overall it's just a messy mixture that doesn't really work.

The game puts you in the shoes of the ridiculously named hero, Agent Sid Tripp. And some people said John Slade was a generic and silly character. His family is killed by the big bad bent on world domination, Psychosis, who is very clearly an homage to Metal Gear Solid's Psycho Mantis, along with his army of cyborgs and robots. M.U.S.E. is the name of the government agency Sid Tripp works under, though I'm not sure what it stands for. The story is no more generic than every other iOS shooter, but the voice acting is pretty cringe worthy at times.

As I said, the game controls very similarly to Shadowgun, only with more functions and mechanics. Movement and aiming have been allocated to the left and right sides of the screen, respectively. You'll have to swipe around the fire, grenade, dodge roll, crouch, reload, and adrenaline boost buttons that litter the screen. The crouching cover mechanics aren't all that functional a lot of the time, and the game seems to be stuck in some weird limbo between a cover based tactical shooter and a run and gunner. The controls are very awkward in general, even with the necessary help of auto aim, and there are no alternate control options whatsoever.

Levels are linear and basic, which isn't necessarily bad, but the infrequent checkpoints coupled with your likely frequent deaths will lead to frustration. Enemy AI is quite limited, which causes many fights to be boring. The game isn't all bad though. I've never seen so many destructible items on an iOS shooter, from cars to boxes to the omnipresent exploding barrels. Glass windows can even be shot out, though you can't shoot enemies through them. They act more as destructible cover. Also interesting is the combo points upgrading system, borrowed from the flawed but fantastic Bulletstorm. Chaining together explosions and destruction leads to lots of points popping up on the screen, which always feels good to see.

The combo system will lead to a credit reward at the end of each level. These credits are used to upgrade your stats and skills, increasing health or accuracy and expanding the allotted time for a continued combo, among many others. You won't get many credits though, which makes the in-app purchase credits very tempting to buy, but it really isn't worth it. You'll eventually learn to work around the controls, and the game starts to feel fun, but you'll still probably die a lot.The graphics are pretty well done, with a decent level of detail, but the game is aesthetically ugly. Drab brown and gray environments make health and ammo pickups hard to spot, and nothing really pops out. Not even the blue force fields or red exploding barrels add much contrast. The soundtrack is not very memorable either.

All in all, the game seems to be too ambitious for its own good. It wants to be too many different things, and the resulting concoction just doesn't work as a whole. Game Center achievements make an appearance in this iOS Universal title, which can be yours for six dollars. If you're a big fan of iOS shooters and you've played a lot of them, there might be some novel enjoyment to be had with this title. Otherwise, there are many other games around the same price point that your money would be better spent on.

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