We've had very few space-based mobile games to get excited about since we exhausted the content of the Galaxy on Fire games, but with the release of Star Command last month, and the promise of a tablet FTL: Faster Than Light at some point in the future, the genre's becoming ripe for the picking. Next up is Starship Battles, a strategic arcade shooter that puts you in charge of an assault ship that has to see off an endless wave of enemy invaders.
Your starship of choice rests at the side of the screen, and you can move around the expanded game area with finger swipes in all directions. Enemy ships spawn at random areas of the screen, some small and nimble (and arriving with little fanfare), while much bigger ship-spawning carriers arrive with a sonic bomb that will have you racing your finger around the screen in order to locate and prioritize their destruction.
To do that, you have to make use of a pair of weapons that each ship is equipped with - a basic gun that consumes little energy (but does a small amount of damage), and a mighty torpedo which saps your weapon's rechargeable energy reserves, but deals a much mightier blow to the opposition in the process.
Tackling the increasingly troublesome waves is simple, although it does require some strategy. Tap a location on the screen, and your projectiles will travel there and explode on arrival, although you need to carefully time your target positioning so that the charge lands just as the moving enemy ship has slipped into the blast radius. Enemies vary in size and speed, so you have to constantly adjust your thinking if you're to eliminate them in short order, and move on to the next threat.
Beyond this core gameplay, the objective of the game is simply to stay alive as long as possible, while grabbing floating minerals that occasionally spawn around the screen. These are used to upgrade your offensive and defensive capabilities, or to purchase a more powerful ship altogether. As the enemy waves become bigger and deadlier, there's an inevitability of death about the whole affair, and upgrading is the only real path you have to beating your high score.
It's fairly simple stuff then, but it's also quite thrilling, particularly in the later stages when you're desperately trying to destroy the rapidly spawning carriers, as well as those smaller ships that are getting perilously close to destroying your hull en masse. If a swarm of enemies do get a little too close for comfort, you can activate a devastating nuke to destroy everything in the mothership's vicinity, but you only have a limited number of these game-savers to play with.
It would have been nice to have a tutorial for the game that's built around gameplay, rather than a series of static text screens, but you should have no trouble getting to grips quickly with the core strategy in Starship Battles. It's not a complex title by any means, but it is a surprisingly moreish one that will challenge even those with the fastest fingers to do better with just one more go.
What's Hot:Fun and frantic arcade strategy, with a decent selection of ships and upgrades to work towards.
What's Not:Your ability to improve on your high score is tied purely to those upgrades. Small sections of text are clipped off the screen in the tutorial pages.