Version Reviewed: 1.1.1
Graphics / Sound [rating:3.5/5]
Game Controls [rating:2.5/5]
Lasting Appeal [rating:2/5]
I'm finding a disturbing trend in iPhone games lately, one that I hope developers will acknowledge and work on. I'm finding that developers, particularly developers of big budget games, are all relying on tried and true methods of game controls. Every big title I can think of uses a simulated joystick on the left side and a few buttons on the right. The joystick never works out as well as it should, and the lack of proper control just kills the overall enjoyment of the game. I don't blame the developers for this because it is much easier to build what has worked in the past, but it would be a refreshing change of pace to see a big 3D game with well thought out controls. That said, I will move on to the review.
Galaxy On Fire is a 3D space shooter that uses a standard control scheme (joystick on left, buttons on right) to navigate the vastness of space in order to defeat the bad guys. The story starts with you, a discharged military pilot, going to a space station in order to get work. The game progresses much like a GTA type game, in that you are a mercenary, you find jobs, complete them, buy some stuff, and then go to the next job. The levels, much like any other game of this type, get progressively harder, but not so hard that you cannot progress. Everything is pretty standard fare in the concept department, nothing will wow you, but nothing will ultimately bore you to tears either.
The in flight gameplay is definitely the first main problem I have with Galaxy On Fire (GOF). You get to fly around space, typically escorting someone from point A to point B, with waves of enemies to fight along the way. You move around much like you would when playing Star Fox or X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter (blast from my gaming past!), aiming at enemy ships and shooting them down. Again, the virtual joystick that so many games are using now drives me nuts. For one, you get no feel as to where on the pad your finger is. Moving from going right to going straight up involves alot of guessing, which is really brutal when going through battles. The shooting, perhaps to make up for the virtual joystick difficulty, is usually performed by double tapping the shoot button, activating auto fire. Simply aiming at the ships that are right in front of you is hard enough, worrying about shooting would be a cruel joke. There is another control option that is available, which is the ability to turn with the accelerometer. I don't know who thought that this was a good idea, because its not. Half of the time I have the phone over my head, looking straight up to play because I am trying to move up. It is wildly entertaining to watch someone play like this, but playing yourself is ridiculous.
The non-action (not in ship) game is pretty fun to play though. Getting to play upgrade your ship is fun, but the real fun is the way the economic system works. Typically in a game like this, there is a standard place where you buy upgrades and all of the upgrades we the same price. In GOF, every level/ ship you are docking with has it's own store with its own economy. For example, the Tortuga ship had plenty of cheap things, but you could sell back computer parts at a high price due to Tortuga's lack of technology. This commerce system is really neat, its just a shame that the levels between the markets are so frustrating.
The graphics of the game are good, performing with high frame rates through 3D environments, but they are not perfect. My problem with them is that the level design and complexity is just boring. Sometimes there are some asteroids to dodge, but they are really no threat and don't occur very much in the game. Most of the time, there is just empty space and an enemy flying around you. Sure, it looks nice, but everything is just so stale and unoriginal.
The lasting appeal for this game would come from the need to upgrade your ship parts between levels in hope of making an unbeatable ship. This motivation will keep you going for a while, but eventually the bland level design and the annoying controls will have you stopping long before the ultimate ship goal is reached. The game just isn't anything that I haven't seen before, and therefore, it seems like I have played and beaten this one many times over. With more innovative controls and more money/things to buy between levels, I could see GOF being a hit, but right now it is just a bit stale. For $5.99, it's hard to recommend this one, as there are many more enjoyable experiences in the app store.