If you’ve ever played the Metal Gear Solid series, then you’ve probably also played the “virtual reality” training modes, where you navigate the hero Solid Snake through mazes, trying to avoid detection from all manner of devices and enemies. VR Mission is a new iOS game that attempts to emulate that feeling. Unfortunately, it’s a game that manages to shoot itself in its own sneaky feet.
You play as a spiky-haired hero (bearing a striking resemblance to Snake), who is tasked with making his way through an enemy base and collecting data from computers and money from chests. Along the way you’ll try to avoid setting off alarms, getting zapped by lasers, or being seen by cameras and enemy soldiers. You have weapons you can use, but stealth is the name of the game.
So man cones you’ll crave ice cream.
You start each of the 15 levels with a list of objectives. These can include downloading data from enemy computers, not setting off the alarms, or not killing any enemies. Completing these objectives earns you achievements and cash, which you can use to purchase upgrades, like silencers for your gun, gas masks, or better armor.
Unfortunately, problems present themselves almost from the start. Your enemies’ sight is depicted as a cone of light from their flashlights. Sometimes you’ll think you’re outside of the cone, only to find you’ve somehow been seen. The enemies also seem to be able to see through walls, and are able to shoot around corners and through objects. Also, the deadly lasers you’re supposed to avoid have an annoying tendency to hit you from around boxes and corners that you think you’re hiding safely behind. It seems like pixel-perfect precision is required for this game, but your stealthiness seems to be fairly random at times.
That’s not Solid Snake, it’s Solid Jake.
Compounding these problems are some fairly awful controls. You control movement with a virtual D-pad, and a single action button handles shooting, stabbing, and changing weapons. The slippery controls meant that we would find our hero wandering in random directions, making jerky and imprecise movements, and generally making avoiding detection and death an exercise in futility. The all-in-one action button is obnoxious as well. Occasionally we would try to switch between the knife or gun with no result or accidentally fire off the gun, which would unintentionally kill a guard, or alert them to our presence.
VR Mission is a game full of fun concepts, with cute and colorful graphics, and good sound effects and music. Unfortunately, the loose and inaccurate controls and environmental problems make the game a real chore to play. More levels are promised in the future, but right now that prospect isn’t terribly enticing.