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You should have played… Galaxy on Fire 2 (iOS/Android)

We welcome back firm3d with his thoughts on a mobile game with big budget aspirations.

Sometimes, hardcore gamers and video game journalists make gaming seem like a haven for snobbery and general bad attitudes. I’m thinking specifically of when there’s a review of a touch-screen game using touch-screen buttons and/or joysticks. I don’t usually have a problem with them, they’re not inherently bad and those people just want them to be buttons because that’s what they’re used to and hate them because they aren’t. It’s like people slagging off eBooks for not being paper. Progress: Deal with it!

If I haven’t put you off already, then there is a purpose to you reading on, because it’s with Galaxy on Fire 2’s touchscreen buttons and joystick that it’s best played. Such controls have gotten me 83 out of 92 achievements in the game, playing 50+ hours of it and has been enjoyable enough that I’ve bought several versions of it: iPhone, iPad and Mac. Funnily enough, I quickly found I don’t like it as much with a mouse and keyboard. As for the iOS tilt controls, the mining is probably the main reason I didn’t spend more time with those; tilt controls + mining = high risk of breaking expensive things.

Played from a third-person perspective, you have the task of seeing Keith T Maxwell safely through the trials of the galaxy (when an NPC asks what the T stands for, a reticent and slightly irritated “… T!” is all we get). What makes the story missions especially endearing is the Liverpudlian voice-over of Keith himself. It’s like having Ringo voice Han Solo.

That said, it’s the breadth of ships and equipment in the game that keeps you in it for the long haul; there’s nothing quite like warping into a system, cloaking your ship and wiping out half the enemies before they can target you. Of course, it would be a bit crap if it were that easy from the get go. No, you’ve got to work for that kind of gear. The game’s best items are made from blueprints, which are bought for a (usually) steep price from strange people in bars.

Such expenses make playing the stock market a worthwhile endeavour. Some advice? Start with towels. More than just a Hitchhikers’ reference, you can buy them for a few dollars and sell them for a few hundred if you find the right systems. Of course, with a bigger cargo hold and the more expensive items, we’re talking about making a million or so in five minutes.

So what have we got: Factions, ships, equipment, funny voice-over, a lengthy main story campaign with infinite side-missions and a great set of Game Centre achievements, tightly integrated into your Status screen, to support it all. But whatever, shooting space-ships in space is its own reward sometimes.

The developers’ (Fish Labs) support of the game bears special mention as well. The game had a paying upgrade to an HD version at one point, which was far from just a few resolution bumps, it was taking all the graphical enhancements of the Mac version and sticking them on iOS. Unfortunately, the original add-ons weren’t ready at the time, but when they were we were given them if the HD version was launched with the original present on the same device. Even better though was when the Retina iPad was announced: Everyone got the resolution of everything in the game doubled, from textures to geometry. This isn’t just unnecessary bloat for those without the newest iPad either, we all get the benefit of a better looking game. It looked pretty good to start with! That makes the only real disadvantage to the game its battery consumption, so iPad is really best here, especially if you don’t carry a charger everywhere you’re going.

The only thing I can think of that could make Galaxy on Fire 2 a better game? I’d love the more personal feel of a detailed cockpit/first-person view. Maybe atmospheric flight and landing on planets too, but I could take that or leave it. Really, that’s pretty much it, because there’s already more DLC (Supernova) in development, so I don’t need to ask for that.

All in all, if you like space and a bit of humour to your voice acting, look no further. Whatever you play it on, play it on a touch-screen. Not least because the game wouldn’t be any better on other platforms, it would just be more expensive.

Galaxy on Fire 2 is available on iOS/Mac App Stores and Android Marketplace.

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