App Reviewed on: iPad mini Retina
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
There are a couple of ways to get around the control pitfalls that many first-person shooters tend to fall into on iOS. First is to do a 'Dead Trigger' and enable automatic firing when a target enters the reticule, second is to pull a 'Rage HD' and put the whole thing on rails. Sci-fi shooter Midnight Star has gone for the latter, but it does a few things differently.
The story is an intriguing tale about the mysterious Artifact: an object capable of manipulating time in both disastrous and beneficent ways. The fact that the speech sections of Midnight Star are interactive is a nice addition. Don't care why the Earth has been wiped out? No problem! Just skip past the waffling and get straight into the action, all while supporting the narrative with a justifiable reason of course. Most conversations take place on the ship, which acts as a base where players can interact with the crew to produce new equipment, weapon upgrades, and develop new powers - though an exclusive currency is key to unlocking everything at a quicker pace. Competing against friends in the Challenge arena yields more rewards but the gameplay is the same as the Campaign, albeit geared towards leaderboard supremacy.
For a while it's jarring not to move the camera by dragging on the right side of the screen, but Midnight Star implements multi-gesture controls that prove to be more effective than having to manually move a camera around - with designated buttons for special attacks and panning left and right. Unfortunately, certain guns fire slightly above the reticule and others don't, the lack of consistency quite off-putting during a gunfight. Manually reloading is also not that fun, even if it is faster than automatically reloading when a magazine is empty (a fact that the game will stop to remind you of many, many times). Conflicts can therefore feel a bit drawn out and repetitive, with a one-size-fits-all way of dealing with each enemy.
Ultimately the on-rails movement makes things feel stagnant as players move between positions as droves of enemies pile on screen and take it in turns to attack. I think they could have done more with each level; perhaps integrating some quick time events to transition between areas, utilized vehicles, or some platforming to switch up the pace and keep things fresh, which is a must when players have no control over movement.
Midnight Star is apparently different every time it's played, with different enemy spawning points and an ever-changing route, but I can't see myself replaying levels that are mostly flat and have little in the way of surprises. It's a gorgeous-looking game with an ambitious story and a commendable attempt to refine the touch-screen FPS experience, but ultimately the on-rails movement and gunfights don't conjure up the fun of other shooters.