Bungie officially said their last goodbyes to the Halo franchise last week... but it's worth noting that the epic series is based on their Marathon Trilogy that released back in 1994 on the Mac. Marathon told an engrossing tale of heroic cyborgs, insane AIs and ancient alien technology long before any hints of Microsoft exclusivity came along, and the first part of the trilogy has now returned to its Apple roots thanks to the tireless efforts of veteran coder Daniel Blezek.
And it's free. So... what are you waiting for?
Marathon 1 casts players as the cyborg security officer of the colony ship Marathon, which has come under attack from a slaver race known as the Pfhor. The ship's computer, Durandal, has also gone completely insane, and it's up to us to beat back the alien menace while trying to work out exactly what team Durandal is playing for. Put simply, the story is one of the best ever told by a videogame - with numerous twists, turns and hidden symbolism buried in computer terminals and secret codes.
The FPS mechanics are tight and sweet, placing a range of weapons including scoped pistols, a powerful assault rifle, flamethrower and your own two mitts at your disposal. Movement controls and primary/secondary fire (a revolutionary first for the genre, I might add) are mapped to on-screen icons, and for the most part, they work fairly well. Enormous maps and imaginative enemies - such as impostor humans who are actually exploding terror weapons - make the campaign a breath of fresh air even today.
Marathon 1's visuals are purely functional, but it's possible to upgrade to a high-resolution texture pack for £1.19. You don't need it, but frankly, Blezek deserves your money as well as your undying thanks.
Since Marathon 1 is a 'warts and all' port, there are a few problems that stem from the original ancient game. Chief amongst them is the level design, which frequently leaves you confused and directionless... and occasionally even without oxygen. Inconsiderate save points make it a fairly poor choice for mobile gaming, especially since you'll need to backtrack an awful lot. It's a shame that the emulator doesn't include save states.
But it's free. Who cares?
- Enormous capable FPS campaign
- Fantastic storyline
- Did I mention that it's free?
- Incredibly inconsiderate - and aggravating - level design
- Infrequent save points
Summary: Marathon 1 is big, brilliant and won't cost you a penny. Frog blast the vent core!
Developer: Soli Deo Gloria Productions
Compatibility: Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.
Price: Free - App Store