We can understand the logic behind making a Metal Gear Solid game for mobile devices — cashing in on the the success of MGS4 on the PS3 by developing watered-down versions of the game on portable platforms like Nokia's N-Gage makes perfect sense. The trouble is that this is a business logic at work that has nothing to do with making good games for this extremely limited platform.
In the game you play the ever-sneaking Solid Snake infiltrating a secret scientific military complex to, ummm, save someone good and stop someone bad ... actually we don't remember why Snake is there, which itself is a testament to the pedestrian nature of the story. The in-game dialogue sequences between Snake and the cast of various good guys and bad guys are well written for the most part, with the characters conversations alternating between that "tough military guy" video game-speak we know all too well, and the characters making fun of the boring army-speak.
Snake is controlled using either the number pad or the navigation pad on your Nokia handset. The controls are simple enough, but are often unresponsive. Luckily, so were the bad guys, who, even after spotting Snake, show all the urgency of pensioners window shopping at a Westfield. The game should revolve around stealth, but the mechanic is so clunky and the bad guys so slow that we eventually discovered it was faster and easier to fist fight our foes head-on, thus robbing the game of most of its skill and interest.
Visually the game is drab and monotone, smattering the heavily pixellated environments in a swamp-like palette of grey, black and various shades of brown. Not that we expect next-generation graphics, but this comes back to our point about understanding how to make games for this limited platform. Nokia phones aren't capable of rendering attractive 3D graphics, so don't make games that require them. The soundtrack is better, featuring a couple of good sneaking songs and sound effects, but is painfully repetitive. At times we attracted the attention of guards simply to change the drone of the low-energy music.
Metal Gear Solid for N-Gage has one campaign and a string of training mini-games to work through. We polished off the main quest in a little over 90 minutes, and the mini-games took another 10 minutes or so. There are a range of achievements to unlock, but the thought of tackling the game again to complete them gave us a panic attack.
Is it worth the money?
No, no it's not. Nokia is asking AU$16 for this monster, but this is the kind of game you'd pass by even if it were free of charge. Metal Gear Solid on N-Gage is a bad game with a short campaign and no replay value. Luckily, we didn't want to play it again any way. Metal Gear solid fans should run for the hills.