While touchscreens open up new avenues for games, developers often try to force old genres into the new devices. In the case of shooters, where console gamers use every button on the controller, developers must now translate those options into touchscreen controls. Often, this means semi-transparent buttons being grafted onto the screen, obscuring the view with a cluttered heads-up display. M.U.S.E. is one of the latest attempts at a touchscreen shooter that never quite feels right.
In practically every area, M.U.S.E. is something we’ve seen before. Take one muscly good guy, add some guns and gnarly aliens, and you’ve got a remarkably forgettable experience. M.U.S.E. opens with a two-minute movie, explaining the story of the game, but it is extremely cliche. It’s so bland that you shouldn’t play this game unless you just want to shoot some bad guys.
You shouldn’t fly that indoors.
The game is designed like a cover-based shooter, but cover isn’t always easy to find and it isn’t easy to launch an attack from behind it. Our hero, Sid Tripp, can’t stand up to too much gunfire, so it’s essential to find cover, making gunfights feel drawn out. You don’t really “snap” behind cover, but instead simply cower behind it. The mechanic feels loose and ineffective.
You control Sid’s movements with your left thumb and aim with your right. Firing your weapon, switching weapons, lobbing grenades, and crouching is all controlled with onscreen buttons. It’s all too easy to tap the wrong button in the heat of battle, causing you to bumble in front of a trigger-happy baddie.
While the graphics are acceptable, there is a problem with the third-person view. The backgrounds and enemies appear on a different plane than Sid, creating the appearance of a bad green screen effect, like in old sci-fi movies. It looks like Sid isn’t really in the action.
While this game gets kudos for being universal, it loses points for its constant crashing on older generation devices. We tried this on a first-gen iPad and iPhone 4. The iPhone played the game without problem, but the iPad often crashed within the first five minutes. We hope this will be fixed in an update, but be warned if you plan to play it only on the original iPad.
M.U.S.E. feels dusty and old. It’s like a shoddy version of Shadowgun, without the the advances in software that push the touchscreen shooter genre forward. The enemies are unforgiving, and the clumsy controls don’t help at all. This is not a shooter you will think of fondly months from now.