Tuesday, December 20, 2011

M.U.S.E. (Ayopa Games/Lab Rats Studio)

M.U.S.E., the long awaited arcade-style, third-person shooter by Lab Rats Studio and Ayopa Games, has finally launched in the App Store. In the wake of several other amazing shooters that have been released this year, like Shadowgun and Modern Combat 3, M.U.S.E. may seem inferior in terms of graphic quality. But in the end, there is so much that sets this game apart from its competitors that you really can't deny how fun the game is.
You play as Sid Tripp, a freakishly ripped agent for the government agency M.U.S.E. Your goal is to stop Physcosis, a villain who is pushing for world domination. The story of M.U.S.E. is told during the game through comic style cut scenes. These provide a nice break in the action and are very well produced.
The first thing about the game that I need to note is that the visuals in M.U.S.E. are not quite top notch. Although they are highly detailed, some aspect of the graphics is out of place making the game seem a bit flat.  I don't want to be too critical, and even though some of the textures are a little rough, if you put the flatness aside the visuals actually match well with the arcade nature of the game.  The color scheme creates a mood of destruction and conveys this feeling of a corrupted world. Now, that is just my opinion, but hopefully you will appreciate the artwork that way as well.
In terms of gameplay, M.U.S.E. effectively combines third-person cover-based shooting with intense non-stop arcade blasting.  Kill your enemies with bullets or grenades, and while you are at it unload on a car and watch it burst into flames. One of the coolest features in the game is the arcade-style scoring system. Rack up points and multipliers when you quick kill enemies or when you destroy parts of the environment.  Building on the arcade scoring, a neat feature called "adrenaline mode" boosts the points that you gain through kills and destruction. Basically, when you kill stuff your adrenaline gauge fills up. Fill it up all the way and Sid shoots himself in the leg, unleashing his rage on everything that you point the cross hairs at.  Adrenaline mode puts the game in a sort of slow-mo and enemies are outlined with a thick, flashy red line. This, along with the arcade-style aspect of M.U.S.E., makes the game experience deeper than your average shooter. Also, you can compete with your friends via GameCenter and OpenFeint leaderboards.
The level design is fairly linear, but this meshes perfectly with the non-stop gunning action. This is not a game where you want to lolligag around and sight-see. You want to go into the mission, set your cross hairs, and blast your way through. The linear level design prevents any confusion and makes the game even more of a blast to play.
There is also a deeper side to M.U.S.E. Character upgrades are not often found in iOS shooters, but the Lab Rats went all out.  As you play, you have access to over 80 unique upgrades to Sid and his weapons. Character upgrades range from max health and max speed, to adrenaline time and combo window. Weapon upgrades include damage, fire radius, clip size, and others.  The upgrades are a huge plus for M.U.S.E. and give it an edge over other shooters on the market.
In terms of device compatability, M.U.S.E. runs perfectly well on my iPhone 4, but I have heard that there is some lag on lower devices. For higher end devices like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, you get to enjoy Air Play mirroring on the big screen. One other neat feature is iCloud integration.
The production of M.U.S.E. has been a crazy adventure for Lab Rats Studio, and they deserve a round of applause for following through with the project and getting it out on the App Store. So you know, just over a year ago, the guys at Lab Rats Studio were students in the game development program at Wake Technical Community College. To Lab Rats, congratulations on the release and I hope you continue to bring innovative titles to iOS. To our readers, definitely give M.U.S.E. a try. This is only episode one, so lets hope future episodes arrive soon. http://itunes.apple.com/app/m.u.s.e./id477764716?mt=8


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