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Galaxy On Fire
by Chris Thomas on Monday 30th Mar 2009

Fishlabs have delivered a complete gaming experience

“Instead of shooting where I was, you should have shot where I was going to be. Muahahahaha!”

For any Futurama fans in the audience these words will sound very familiar, indeed not only is it a great quote from one of our favourite shows but it is also highly valuable advice for any of you would-be intergalactic mercenaries. If that sounds like you then take note, Galaxy On Fire is available now in the App Store and provides you many an opportunity for aerial dog fighting, gathering loot and generally pretending to be an extra in Battlestar Galactica.

Galaxy On Fire (or GoF) is a fantastic space adventure through and through. You play as Keith T. Maxwell, an elite pilot who has become a mercenary for hire after fighting in the Vossk Wars. As the game begins you are introduced to the controls and interface through a couple of fairly simple missions (cleaning space debris or fending off weak assailants) which then expand to more complicated and difficult tasks eventually leading to a climax in the games narrative. Once you play through the linear story’s thirteen or so missions the game really begins. This however will likely take you a long time because this game suffers from an utterly bizarre difficulty curve.

During missions your ship is controlled by either a virtual analogue stick in the bottom left of the screen or by the accelerometer. I found the analogue stick to be preferable myself (even with the calibrator and sensitivity settings) but do try out both and get a feel for what works best for you. Next to the virtual stick is a boost button (boost must recharge between each use) and on the right is a weapon change and a large fire button to use your selected weapon. In a nice touch, double tapping the button sets it to auto-fire, since you spend so much time in dog fights this is a welcome feature. The controls will take some getting used to (it can be quite twitchy) and it will take new pilots a while to get the hang of aiming in front of the target but once you “get it” the game becomes a lot of fun. The controls are not part of the difficulty issues.

After around the fourth or fifth mission you will find yourself getting dominated by enemy ships, they are seemingly faster than you, their weapons are superior and they regularly outnumber you by some margin. You will have had the opportunity by this point to sell some loot and invest in a new weapon. Unless you pick the right one however, you are as good as screwed. I had to restart the whole game four times until I was both wise and rich enough to purchase a weapon that would allow me to progress. Write this down. The weapon you need is called the “ONYX Laser”. With this information your time with GoF will be much easier (that is to say not impossible) and you will have a lot more fun.

Once you plough through the narrative based missions Galaxy On Fire opens up in a big way. All of a sudden you have a galaxy map not unlike the one in Mass Effect (less flashy of course) which grants you access to over 500 destinations. These take the form of planets or space stations and are essentially different backdrops for the menu navigation that allows you to visit the hangar, buy/sell items and to view the missions available at that location. In a nice touch each quadrant of the galaxy map is occupied by a primary faction be it the Vossk, the Terrans or the Outlaws. Each destination will also give you differing amounts of credits for the loot you sell (credits being the in-game currency). For example if you collect high tech loot such as computer components you will get a far higher price selling it to a vendor at a more primitive species.

Without a narrative to prod you along it’s a mighty fine job that the gameplay is so good and that the motivation to upgrade and buy new ships is so strong. Although I didn’t feel like I was necessarily part of any greater story I have found Galaxy On Fire to be extremely compelling; saving up credits, warping from planet to planet and generally exploring the galaxy and it’s colourful inhabitants will take a long time to wear thin (Around 20 hours to be exact).  That I have managed to discuss the game for six paragraphs now without mentioning the graphics is a testament to how fleshed out this experience is. The Visuals are another of the games great qualities and Fishlabs must be commended for investing time and energy into reworking the games original assets and then bringing in additional effects such as real time lighting to complete the package. The music and audio in general has also been improved from the original however I can’t help wish I was able to play music through the iPod functionality instead, something more orchestral and epic would really complete my delusions of science fiction heroics.

If you just skipped to the bottom of the review to read the concluding paragraph then a) I don’t blame you, I do it all the time and b) what you need to know is this: Despite some slight issues with the difficulty early on, Galaxy On Fire is a must buy game for your iDevice. For the asking price you are getting an astounding amount of content in a game that is extremely polished, beautifully presented and above all enjoyable. This game is now an ambassador of the iPhone; strong enough to stand alongside the platforms finest such as Rolando, Crayon Physics Deluxe and iDracula. If there is a higher recommendation than that I am not aware of it.

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  • Sound: 7
  • Graphics: 8
  • Gameplay: 9
  • Longevity: 10



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