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.
Like the complicated father-son relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the marriage between the Star Wars franchise and card battling games has been a tumultuous one at best. Last year's Star Wars Force Collection was a hands-off snooze affair bogged down by heavy micromanagement. The latest attempt at shoehorning a galaxy far, far away into a collectible card game format, however, is a vast improvement over what we’ve seen before. Star Wars: Assault Team packs all the polish, accessibility, and strategy that were sorely missing in Force Collection, even if it's not an entirely fresh spin on collectible card combat.
As a clear effort to emulate big-budget console shooters like Panzer Dragoon or Star Fox, Star Horizon is perhaps most notable for how true it stays to its vision. It's a game that takes very little influence from the usual iOS design trends, thankfully eschewing common devices like virtual sticks, tilt steering, or in-app purchases. As a result, it’s a mostly successful homage that shines particularly in its presentation, with the game serving as a showpiece for the iOS platform.
If you're an intergalactic space miner by trade, there are worse fates than getting stranded on a giant red planet rich with subterranean minerals, danger, and excitement. With nowhere to go but deeper and deeper beneath the planet's surface, Mines of Mars teases you along into its Metroid-style adventure by putting up subtle barriers and giving you a means to overcome them: mining. The balance between gathering, crafting, and exploring is well tuned to draw you in, even if other aspects of navigating the planetscape feel weak by comparison.
If there's one thing that playing Out There expertly imparts, it's that space can be a cold, lonely, and rather depressing place. The dangerous homeward journey of a cosmic explorer lost amongst the stars proves pretty grim in this turn-based sci-fi explorer. With fuel, oxygen, and ship repair materials in short supply, every light jump in the right direction also pushes you closer to the potential for a premature demise. It's gloomy stuff to be sure, but it pairs well with the intensely moody atmosphere and comic book presentation, which make the experience feel distinct from what's come before.
What's the fastest way to get the space bucks needed to get your giant galactic battlestation fully operational so you can terrorize the galaxy? Opening up a snack shop and peddling womp rat stew, apparently. Tiny Death Star leans heavily on its adorable pixel art presentation and silly personality to suck you in, as the cutesy Star Wars-skinned take on Tiny Tower reimagines the Death Star as a strip mall of sorts. And keeping it running smoothly is fun — assuming you don't expect any action, explosions, or space battles.
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.
There are exactly 106 lost episodes of the classic BBC television show Doctor Who -- or at least there were, now that nine such gems were discovered earlier this year and are now available from iTunes.
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.