Sony PSP: Frustratingly Beautiful

Metal Gear Acid: Solid Snake, The Lone Wolf

Publisher: Konami
Number of players: 1 to 2

Konami has called in its flagship franchise for the launch of the PSP, offering a fairly amazing Solid Snake adventure. Metal Gear Acid is a turn-based strategy and infiltration game where the player uses action cards drawn at random to move his character and carry out missions. It's a little confusing at first, but the result is surprising and quite well done.

However, you'll need some persistence before things actually get going, as the intro to Metal Gear Solid is a real test of the nerves of impatient players. For a good 15 minutes you have to look at 2D screens and read dialog boxes without being able to do anything. Which brings us to a point we'd like to mention, something we've noticed on all the games we've tested on PSP: what happened to 3D intro animations? With a title like Lumines, we wouldn't expect one, but on Metal Gear? But no, all you get, aside from one little sequence, is 2D screens - pretty enough designs, but little else. It's frustrating and we hope that this won't become par for the course for PSP titles.

But back to Metal Gear Acid. The action of the game is outside the scope of the usual living-room console episodes. Here most of the characters are new, and Solid Snake is once again up against terrorists who want to destabilize the world by grabbing a secret military project, Pythagoras. In this quest, our hero will also have the guidance of a little girl named Alice, who has telepathic powers.

That's the starting premise, which leads to a whole series of infiltration and action missions. Once the game starts, you're dealt random cards; there are some thirty in all, falling into five categories. Some represent equipment Snake can wear or use - a bulletproof vest, a box to hide in, and so on - some are weapons, and some are special actions, like a devastating kick you can use in hand-to-hand combat. There are also character cards - for improved movement or more precise attack - and support cards, for avoiding attacks or increasing your action points, for example. Most of these cards can be used as is, or converted into movements.

During each turn, you can generally play two or three cards before finalizing your phase and watching the actions programmed by your opponent. New cards, still drawn at random, are added to each player's hand at each turn.

You can see that Metal Gear Acid combines luck and strategy, and the result is, frankly, habit-forming. In the US version of the game, a multiplayer mode (which doesn't exist in the Japanese version) is unlocked after the solo missions are completed. It lets you play in a team and collect disks that let you reach objectives that are specific to each character. It's a little extra bonus for you once the solo game is over.

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