Flux's The Mark is flashy looking but ultimately envelopes at core, a
really simple game. When I was in high school, I was tasked to create a
game in a computer course. My game involved clicking on people to get
points and the insertion of periodic "must-click" events that I did all
through VB. The Mark is a sophisticated dressing of that very simple
premise which even for the Pocket PC is very rare indeed.
The world this title takes place in is rather dark. Police units have
turned into a paramilitary organization and you are part of an
organization that works alongside law enforcement called EOB. At the
same time, this organization has attracted another counter-law
enforcement body that specifically targets EOB units, namely you. The
EOB provide eyes, ears and liaison with law enforcement so that the
primary workhorse (you) is able to do your job, which incidentally is
sniping. The Mark features two types of sniper rifles. The first is the
ubiquitous PSG-1, the flagship sniper rifle for outfits like SWAT. This
gun is able to work from a clip and thus does not suffer the slower load
times as bolt action rifles which is your second choice.
The Mark allows you to create up to three separate profiles each saved
with their respective progress in the game. Moreover, it lets you
select which weapon to use. The theme for The Mark is always a
near-futuristic high tech setting. Thus, you have to login using a
virtual tap-in keyboard. I found this more annoying than good since I
have to create yet another password just to get into a profile in the
game. This world has enough passwords already and I would think that a
complex title like Deus Ex might demand memorization of fictitious
passwords but for a PDA game, it simply is too much.
There are several campaigns in the mark known as "scenery". A
particular "scenery" is actually a backdrop that is used multiple times
in each campaign to set up different situations. One minute the New
York backdrop could have you defending a material witness against
terrorists while in the next you could be helping a police barricade
situation. The reason for this quirky setup is really quite practical.
Each "scenery" can be almost three megs in size. In terms of the PDA
world, that amount is huge just for data files. The campaigns are
designed quite well actually. Because a sniper often has to wait for
action to happen before committing any of his/her own, there are
periodically counter-snipers which target the EOB sniper. These
instances keeps the player vigilant because these counter-snipers appear
randomly (although in fixed positions) across the map. Often, if they
are not dispatched of quickly, you may find yourself unable to
simultaneously deal with the scripted events. For example, in one
particular instance, a counter-sniper emerged but so did three guys
trying to hunt down the target I was trying to protect. Obviously, the
player must prioritize things and the game gets even more hectic as it
progresses in difficulty.
Technically, this title is quite impressive. Everything from the menu
shell art down to the actual gameplay is well animated and well drawn.
The graphics could potentially reach the caliber of a PC game itself.
Equally impressive is the audio component. The music tracks are clear
while the gun shot sounds appear like something drawn from Rainbow Six.
Suffice to say, I only wish there were more ambient music and sounds but
as the data files are already so grossly large, I'm not sure whether
there is much room for those. What is most impressive are probably the
talking heads which actually move their mouth while speaking. This is
not revolutionary for a PC game but in the PDA arena it adds to how
well-polished the graphics are. Although there is no in-game speech,
there are ample opportunities for your EOB support team to inform the
sniper on what is happening during the mission.
There have been constant references throughout this article relating
this title to a PC game and I have good reason to make such references
especially considering how this title adapts to portability. Sitting on
a cradle or sitting on A/C power, this title is a good example of what
to expect in the PDA genre. It does however, have a few significant
flaws. For one, on the iPaq, I had to constantly set the key for firing
the gun. The default settings do not seem to work and there is no
option to save my key layout. The second thing is the absolutely
atrocious English. The dialog is sometimes so drawn out and long that
something that could be said in one word is displayed in a few
This title also requires copious amounts of backlight. Because of the
nitty gritty near future environment, almost everything is dark. As
such, you will need at least the lowest form of backlight if not full
backlight to enjoy this game. On other platforms like the Jornada or
Casio machines, you can easily play this with one hand. The tapping
motion signals the sniper to shoot. On an iPaq however, you must use
two hands although it is not necessarily constant since the title
doesn't demand you to be constantly shooting. However, all is for
naught because of the tiny graphics. Understanding the premise of this
game is to use a scope and a super-zoom in scope to take out enemies,
there still has to be a better way in making this game easy to play on
the go. Because of the lack of gamma correction and the minute size of
the various game objects, you will find yourself looking at your PDA
quite intensively to spot those counter-snipers. I'm not sure whether
this is something you can actually play standing on the subway.
Each mission is timed well enough that you can easily finish it within a
few minutes. However, at this time, there are no other campaigns.
There is a promise of future campaigns on the developers' website (which
might I add, is also equally mired with ambiguous English). There is a
set of training missions that come with the title. They work more like
a timed shooting range so the ability to replay is there. I am however,
disappointed that even in the PDA world, there are incomplete titles
being released that require future patching. Obviously, this is one
page of the PC scene we do not want to see lifted in the PDA world.
Flux is charging higher than most Pocket PC games for this title. Its
technical craftsmanship is impressive and it masks the simplicity of
this game, which is actually to press a button over extremely tiny
targets. Being a premium title though, I was expecting premium quality
which sad to say, does not seem to be here. Regardless, Flux is well on
its way to being a premier game developer. Hopefully their future
excursions will be more polished.
[ 08/10 ] Addictiveness
[ 10/15 ] Gameplay
[ 14/15 ] Graphics
[ 08/10 ] Interface/controls
[ 09/10 ] Sound
[ 06/10 ] Program size
[ 02/05 ] Discreetness
[ 13/15 ] Learning Curve