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iPad App Video Review: Marathon 1

by Andrew Koziara

Marathon 1 is a fan made port of Bungie’s first ever first person shooter, before that other little game they made known as Halo. It was originally released on the Mac in 1994 as Bungie’s answer to games like Doom on the PC, but it isn’t any kind of rip-off.

Where Doom is much more run and gun and high octane, Marathon is more atmospheric and story driven. This app was released on Bungie Day, which is the 7th of July. I was hoping to review it closer to Bungie Day, but you know how it is; so many apps, and so little time. So how does this fan-made love letter to Bungie hold up?

This is definitely a very faithful port. All the same action, mystery, and intrigue have been preserved. The entire single player campaign is here. There is no multi-player to speak of though, which is unfortunate, but it’s not necessary. The chilling soundtrack definitely sets this apart from other shooters of its time. Should you take the time to find them and read them, the story that is told throughout all the terminals in the game is very well done. Learning about the desperate artificial intelligence programs and the way people live life on these ships is all very fascinating.

The conversion of a mouse and keyboard control scheme into a touch screen control scheme is as good as I could really hope for. The game is extremely difficult to control with the touch screen, but I have yet to find a first person shooter on a mobile device that controlled comfortably. You move your character with a virtual stick on the left, and shoot or switch your weapons with buttons on the right. To aim, you simply swipe the screen in any direction. This makes moving and shooting at the same time a real chore, as you constantly have to re-orient your aim, unable to fire. The controls are the only real flaw, and it was to be expected with the touch screen. You can set up a cross-hair to help your aim, as well as a tap-anywhere-to-shoot control method.

The game itself will not appeal to everyone. It is the very definition of old school; lots of exploration, lots of health scavenging, and lots of not knowing exactly what to do or where to go. If you like those old school shooters, like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Duke Nukem 3D, then you’ll love this game. Shooters have really evolved since those days though. This is really a pure nostalgia trip, and not really meant to be played seriously. That’s all fine though, because this project is completely free. There are a few in-app-purchases you can make though. You can upgrade to HD mode for four dollars, which adds high-res textures with more detail. It’s not really necessary to do, but here is the first section of the game with HD mode turned on so you can see how it looks. The other purchase is called Master Chief Mode for one dollar, which enables tons of cheats, such as every weapon, infinite ammo, and invincibility. This may sound like it takes all the fun out of the game, but if you’re just looking to play through the game without much difficulty or hassle, for the sake of nostalgia and the haunting atmosphere and story; it’s actually a great way to go.

I recommend purchasing both upgrades simply because I’m a fan-boy who wants to see the sequels, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity, eventually get made, so I say support projects like this. Either way, as a completely free app, you might as well check out this classic ASAP.  While you’re at it, go download the Bungie Mobile app for all your Halo Reach and Bungie.net needs.

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