A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Metal Gear Solid Touch is a somewhat violent third-person military shooter for iPhones and iPod Touch. It follows the story of the highly popular PlayStation 3 game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but contains almost none of its sophisticated philosophical dialogue on the morality of war. It also lacks its precursor’s sexual themes, strong language, and graphic visuals, though its military theme and near-constant violence still makes it inappropriate for pre-teens. Players spend all of their time targeting pop-up-style human targets, some of which flash red when hit. The whole screen flashes crimson if the player’s character gets shot. There is no blood, though these red flashes are clearly meant to evoke it. The developers have self-rated this game 9+ for “Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence.” The PlayStation 3 game is rated Mature by the ESRB. Even though the content of the app game is less gory, it's still like training wheels for a game that no kid under 17 should play. So parents, if you let your 14-year-olds play this, be prepared for an argument about why they then can't play the full-on version.
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What's it about?
Players who haven’t experienced any of Konami’s popular Metal Gear Solid games will likely have difficulty picking up the plot of METAL GEAR SOLID TOUCH for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, which attempts to tell through short blurbs of text and a number of shooting action sequences the story of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, a game the narrative of which, by most accounts, is one of the deepest, densest games in the world of interactive entertainment. You take on the role of an aging soldier named Snake who must go up against both mercenaries and evil military geniuses in an attempt to maintain world order. Play centers around a simple shooting mechanic that has players moving a targeting reticule with their fingers and then tapping the screen to fire. It's like a light gun shooting gallery game without the light gun.
Is it any good?
It matters little whether you’re a fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise; the chances of anyone enjoying this simplistic shooter are slim. It’s a pale shadow of its PlayStation 3 counterpart, which delivers a narrative depth so multifacted and engaging as to make this game’s brief bits of text read almost like a "Dick and Jane" book. What’s more, the action has been completely gutted. There’s no stealth play and no special gadgets to use. All players do is aim at implausibly slow moving bad guys as though they were part of a shooting gallery -- which, for all intents and purposes, they are.
And while it may not be as graphic or profane as its console-based precursor, the game’s age rating of 9+ for “Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence” (applied by the developer, not a third-party classification group like the ESRB) is completely off. The violence may be mild compared to the original game, but it is fairly realistic and, more importantly, it’s the game’s primary focus. We don’t recommend any military-themed shooters for children under the age of 13.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences between the PlayStation3 version and this Touch edition. Clearly, much has been lost in translation to the small screen. What sort of impact do these missing elements have on the game’s action? Its narrative? What is it about the console game that makes it less appropriate for younger audiences? Simply the lack of more realistic violence?
Families can also discuss the reasons why countries go to war. Is there anything that can morally justify war? Does it make sense for countries to employ private military contractors -- companies that, in turn, employ mercenaries -- to wage their wars? Are these soldiers automatically less scrupulous than those in a national army?