Saturday 23 July 2016

Ashen (Nokia N-Gage review)

Developer: Torus Games
Publisher: Nokia
Released: 2004

Ashen is a first-person shooter that's exclusive to the Nokia N-Gage.

Your mission is to find your sister and save the Seven River City from supernatural phenomena. Weapons include Dual Pistols and a Pulse Gun, while the Ghost Vision gadget allows you to see in the dark and illuminate invisible enemies. The controls make great use of the system and once you're familiar with the mapping it's easy to strafe and switch weapons on the fly. There's also a generous auto-aim and like Doom (1993, MS-DOS) you don't even have to be lined up on the vertical axis to blast an enemy. The majority of the game is an old-school FPS where you wander through levels and locate the exit. Each location is huge and fun to explore, while providing enough intrigue through the creepy environments. Mixed with the haunting music and SFX, the game has a claustrophobic, survival-horror feel and it's genuinely scary at times, especially if you approach an invisible enemy without wearing your Ghost Vision! This element of danger forces you to take a more strategic approach which really heightens the intensity. There's also a few minor puzzle elements (such as hitting switches) and some weak underwater sections. The final missions push the system to its limits with surprising success and they feel more like a modern FPS. Mission 6 features deadly mechanical boulders that you need to avoid while defeating enemies and using your Ghost Vision to destroy hidden parts of a machine. Mission 7 even introduces some tricky platforming to go along with its sprawling environments. However, while the scenery is detailed and there's some great lighting effects, there are some collision detection and clipping issues.
Ashen is an impressive and engrossing FPS and it's definitely one of the main reasons to own a Nokia N-Gage. It has a deep story and a lengthy campaign while achieving the seemingly impossible task of offering a fun 3D shooter on a system that really shouldn't be able to handle the genre.
Random trivia: The game was heavily promoted around the launch of the redesigned Nokia N-Gage QD system.

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