In an age where Space Sims have all but died out, we have to look to the darkest and most unexpected places to get our fix. Luckily the App store has been more than happy to furnish us with the likes of Warpgate and Galaxy on Fire (which is now free and well worth a download)... but Fishlabs has now delivered arguably the most comprehensive space opera on the iPhone, with Galaxy on Fire 2.
Thrown thirty five years into the future by a hyperspace malfunction, elite pilot Keith T. Maxwell has to explore a whole new galaxy and find his way home... if it still exists. The story is instantly immersive and spans over ten hours of gameplay, but the joy of Galaxy on Fire 2 is that there's an entire galaxy of over one hundred star systems to explore for fun and profit.
Space Sim veterans will instantly feel at home with the classic progression system. Starting with a hopeless old clunker, you'll need to mine asteroids and fulfil side missions to raise the funds for better weapons and classier rides. Everything from weapons and shields to pricey commodities can be bought and sold, and Galaxy on Fire 2 breaks the mould by making most of the upgrades easily affordable with only a little grind. You'll still need to scrimp and save for the best gear, but there's little of the aggravation that frequently dogs similar titles.
As mentioned before, over one hundred star systems replete with trade stations, asteroids and hazards await your arrival- and the action is rendered in full 3D. A capable virtual thumbstick allows players to manipulate their fighter in three dimensional space (no pun intended), with context-sensitive shortcuts for firepower and combat lying within easy reach of the right thumb. Travelling between star systems and distant waypoints is a cinch thanks to a nifty fast forward button and a handy autopilot. The galaxy may be huge, but getting from A to B is never a hassle.
In terms of presentation, Galaxy on Fire 2 is absolutely exceptional. The 3D graphics are optimised for the retina display (and look the business on an iPhone 4), but it still runs perfectly well on an older device. Beautiful vistas, visceral battles and detailed close-ups are all pixel-perfect eye candy to dangle in front of your mates. Full voice acting provides a hammy accompaniment to the story-and whilst its undeniably cheesy, it's also seriously impressive in a downloadable app.
There's only one major drawback that stops me from giving Galaxy on Fire 2 a perfect score, and it's unfortunately the common offender with most touchscreen apps. The controls. In order to fit everything onto the iPhone, Fishlabs have unfortunately had to remove the throttle. The nifty autopilot and fast forward mechanics mean that you won't need it for the majority of the experience, but in battle, you'll miss the ability to slow down for tight turns or speed up to dodge incoming fire. A boost upgrade helps somewhat, but the space combat still feels decidedly clunky. Barrel rolls are also curiously absent. To Peppy's dismay.
- Enormous universe to explore and conquer
- Accessible economy eliminates traditional grind
- Eyepopping 3D visuals
- Clunky space combat
- Aggravating lack of throttle controls
- Occasionally repetitive
Summary: Galaxy On Fire 2 is a mobile triumph. Whilst the biggest publishers shy away from the wild black yonder, Fishlabs have proved conclusively that the endangered genre can flourish on the app store. Despite the awkward combat, it's an epic space opera that deserves your time and attention.
Compatibility: Optimised for iPhone 4, Network Multiplayer Only Available on 4G, Compatible with 2G upwards, Compatible with iPad
Price: £5.99 App Store Link
Score: 5/5 stars