Death comes in many flavors in FTL: Faster Than Light for iPad. Will your crew slowly suffocate from depleted oxygen? Be eviscerated by carnivorous space spiders? Get caught by the heavily armed armada fleet that's always in hot pursuit—or something far worse, perhaps? An unpleasant fate is almost a certainty in this challenging strategy affair, but the push to survive and conquer the obstacles thrown your way with each light jump is where FTL's magic lies.
With a laser pistol in one hand and a glowing sword in the other, charging through long corridors filled with killer robots, oozing slime creatures, and alien freaks sounds like a good time. It is — at least to an extent — in Echo Prime. This sci-fi brawler from Robot Entertainment (Hero Academy) is a high-energy tap-fest that balances smart controls and formidable challenge. The satisfaction that comes from cleaving through droves of foes in a successful run dampens during longer play sessions, however, due to intense repetition that'll leave your wrists aching.
Though it draws heavy inspiration from a particular sci-fi franchise well known for boldly sending a spaceship full of uniformed crew where no one has gone before, Star Command doesn't fiddle around with any namby-pamby prime directive. The galaxy is full of danger and backstabbing aliens looking to get a piece of your sweet tech. Sure, diplomacy is sometimes an option with the strange crafts you encounter in this slick pixel-based quest, but it's just way more fun to blow your adversaries out of the stars or die trying in an often intense and chaotic adventure through the cosmos.
Shoehorning an expansive online space combat sim experience onto the iPad isn't without its challenges, but the tablet version of Vendetta Online delivers a faithful and surprisingly functional port of the long-running massively multiplayer online game. For players used to the more casual thrills offered on the App Store, Vendetta Online's exhaustive depth and complexity poses a steep learning curve to master upfront, though carving out your niche in the galaxy is undeniably absorbing once you open up the throttle.
It's a classic science fiction construct: revolutionary new technology promises the world, brave (and/or foolish) pioneers dabble in the unknown, and the unexpected results bring dire consequences. Upgrade Soul – a standalone graphic novel app with 3D elements and a soundtrack – hits a couple of familiar notes in that regard, but its tale of a so-called medical miracle and the people it affects captivates in its early chapters. Written and illustrated by Ezra Claytan Daniels, Upgrade Soul spotlights Hank and Molly Nonnar, an elderly pair of well-off science aficionados who decide to undergo a bold and highly experimental medical treatment.