App of the Day: Dariusburst Second Prologue

Fishy business.

Version tested iPhone

Go to Goodge Street's Casino Arcade right now and you'll be met with the most wonderful of dinosaurs. Dariusburst Another Chronicle, released in Japan towards the end of 2010 and currently on location test in Central London, is all about excess - it's a side-on shooter for six players, its angelic soundtrack pumped through the bench that sits in front of its eccentric 32:9 screen.

Go to the App Store right now and you'll find a smaller but no less impressive example of Taito's long-running yet under-praised series. Dariusburst Second Prologue, a pimped-up port of a two-year old PSP game, is another excellent addition to what's fast becoming a comprehensive 2D shooter collection.

Like Cave's swathe of iOS outings, Darius manages to partner the reflex mechanics of its genre with a touch-screen and a single finger input. It's not quite as effective as the likes of DoDonPachi - Cave wisely leaves a little space at the bottom of the screen for your finger to run riot, while in its eagerness to fill the iPhone's screen Darius allows you to too often obscure the action. It's a minor nuisance, though, and control's sharp and snappy enough for it never really to detract from the experience. And what a brilliantly surreal, taut experience at that.

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Dariusburst SP's music deserves a note - mixing electronica with wistful vocal melodies, it's got the soothing otherworldliness of Jega.

Darius is often - and somewhat unfairly - seen as a poor relative to its 80s side-scrolling brethren R-Type and Gradius. Admittedly Darius hasn't quite ever hit the highs of those two series, but it's always been happy to dance its own particular dance, and it's a pretty one at that. The world of Darius - starring mechanised fish and threatening crustaceans, a journey under the deepest seas that's been transposed to the furthest reaches of outer space - has always been its strongest suit, and it's told as well as ever on iOS.

So while the shooting's rote - enemy patterns are sluggish and laser fire's never thick enough for you to work a sweat, while your ship is swift and over-powered from the start - the spectacle is anything but, and it's enough to push you to explore the main game's branching mission structure in multiple playthroughs.

Run through to the end a couple of times and you'll unlock a mission mode in which the game tears off some bite-sized chunks designed to be that much easier to swallow on a morning commute. It's a welcome acknowledgement of the host platform - and another sign that it's Taito above all other major Japanese publishers who has really got its teeth into mobile games development.

Its price point - an eye-watering 7.49 - is the only part of the package that sits a little uneasy on a mobile, but Dariusburst does its very best to justify the added cost. It's a perfect facsimile of the Darius formula, and another shining example on mobile of a genre that was once thought endangered. Arcades never really went away, it seems. Look in your pocket and you'll find that they're healthier than ever.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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