Version Reviewed: 1.0.5
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Only a couple of months after the very first iPhone became available, Bioshock was let loose on an unsuspecting public. Okay, it was probably expected. Alright fine, it had an express ticket on the Hype Train.
My point is that when Bioshock first started impressing the heck out of players and critics alike, smartphone tech was still in its infancy. Nobody could have expected that one day, seven years later, we’d be able to explore Andrew Ryan’s failed utopia on our phones. Now that we can, I have to say it’s rather cool. For the most part.
Seeing as it’s been seven years there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Bioshock, but the basic idea is that Andrew Ryan, a man with a twisted ideology and lots of money, decided to build his own underwater city. A city where people could do as they please without the threat of governments or religions (or morals) getting in their way - and he named it Rapture. Then it all went really, really bad.
You play the part of an unlucky soul named Jack who just sort of ended up in Rapture after a plane crash in the middle of the ocean, which happened to deposit him right by one of the city’s surface entrances. After that it’s genetic modification and the horrors of a society that’s cannibalized itself beyond recognition as far as the eye can see.
Which is great and all, but how does it hold up on iOS? Well, it’s probably about what you’d expect. Bioshock on iOS is Bioshock. It’s the same game but shrunk down to fit on a phone and given touch controls (MFi controller support is also available, of course).
What’s great about it is that it is Bioshock. The original is still one of my most favorite games of all time, and it’s incredible to think that now I can play it whenever and wherever I want. The whole of Rapture is just sitting there in my pocket, waiting to be explored.
It hasn’t been a perfect transition, however. The visuals have been stripped down, as should be expected, but while they still look good for mobile they definitely don’t hold a candle to the original. The lack of some environmental effects also have a noticeable impact on the atmosphere at times. Worse yet, even with the reduced visual flair there’s some pretty noticeable slowdown and general frame rate jankiness on the iPhone 5 whenever there’s lots of water/fire/action on screen.
However the big caveat is the control scheme. It works, don’t get me wrong - Bioshock is definitely playable with a touch screen - but physical controls would be preferable. It’s not so much the looking and shooting as it is the switching between weapons and plasmids, cycling through your armory, changing ammo types, using medkits, and so on. The way the interface has been implemented in places is just a bit questionable, with such head-scratchers as the distinct inability to drop objects that have been grabbed with Telekinesis and the lack of a jump button. The action doesn’t pause when you’re fiddling with weapon/plasmid selection either, which is even more of a sore spot. Although I will say that the hacking mini-game is much easier to pull off when you can just tap on everything.
Whether or not Bioshock is worth your time on iOS depends entirely on what you’re looking for. If you simply want to be able to play it whenever you feel like it (on the go, waiting at the dentist, etc) then it’s absolutely something for you to consider. If you’ve never played it before and don’t have access to a console or computer, it’s a decent enough way to take a tour of Rapture - so long as you don’t mind touch controls for a shooter. Otherwise you’re probably better off experiencing the original on a bigger screen.