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The question, of course, with such a title is not whether or not the game is good—"Bioshock" is a great game, an all-time classic—but whether it translates well to mobile devices.

iOS Game Review: ‘Bioshock’

Last month, the incredibly popular, terribly well-received received Bioshock was released for iOS. Playable on current generations of iPads and iPhones, the game is compatible with older models to a degree (iPhone 5, yes; iPhone 4S, no; on the iPad side you need at least an Air, Mini 2, or iPad 4). The question, of course, with such a title is not whether or not the game is good—Bioshock is a great game, an all-time classic—but whether it translates well to mobile devices.

The answer here is somewhat more murky. There are definitely things that work about it on mobile, but there are other things that don’t.  There is more bad than good, but most of the good is the game itself which, as stated above, is  a great title.

More specifically, the graphics and speed at which Bioshock moves on iOS are both more than adequate. You aren’t going to see lots of jitteriness or a horrible dumbing down of the original release. Sounds, too, play well.

The controls are slightly more of an issue. Bioshock, as with so many modern console- or PC-based titles, asks players to be able to do a lot of things at once. Think about the number of buttons and sticks a console system’s controller might have. Console games map a different command to each button (or nearly each depending on the game).

That isn’t available on a mobile device, and that, really is the biggest issue with Bioshock. It becomes difficult to turn and fire at the same time. That makes tracking baddies and hitting them difficult and, as Bioshock is a first person shooter, well, it makes it far more difficult to play. You can do it, and you will learn to if you invest enough time, it just isn’t as easy as you might want.

On iOS, Bioshock is also a space hog. Not surprisingly, on install the game requires 1.5 GB of room. However, just an hour or so into gameplay we checked back and the title was up to 2.6 GB of space. After that, we simply became too scared to ever look again but are convinced that the number continued to climb. If you only are sporting a 16 GB device, which as we all know doesn’t actually allow for 16 GB of content, just installing the game is 10% of your allotment and then playing it costs even more.

The notion that the amount of space needed jumps so dramatically in order to save (or perhaps more data was downloaded to actually play) is troubling. It is, in no uncertain terms, wrong for a game to suggest it requires “x” amount of space on such a limited platform and then to just about double the requirement after purchase, especially when “x” is already very high.

To be clear, 2K isn’t alone in the way they note space requirements, lots of titles mislead consumers.  It is, however, still wrong.  Maybe, if we are lucky, Apple will begin to demand a greater deal of truth in this area.

That being said, if you have a larger capacity device or don’t mind deleting vast quantities of other stuff on a smaller one, you’re still going to like what you find. The controls are something that distress and do remove some of the enjoyment Bioshock originally offered, but not enough to completely curtail your enjoyment.  It is also somewhat less engrossing on smaller screens and played in bite-sized segments, but that, too, is to be expected.

We would love to see the sequels make their way over to iOS as well, but imagine that’s going to be impossible for the time being both due to processing power and storage requirements. Hopefully they figure it out, because even if other entries in the trilogy don’t live up to the original, they do all have something to offer.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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