App of the Day: Hunters 2

Lonely planets.

Hunters was a high point for strategy games on iOS, not least for its expert take on fog of war and the big selling point of daily missions. Hunters 2 does everything bigger, better, and in even more detail. It's a much better game in almost every way, with every addition adding a little crackle to the mix. And yet it still leaves you craving something more.

The concept is simple enough, top-down turn-based strategy with teams of mercenaries versus everything else. Each turn characters have a number of action points used to move, shoot or stand guard - and some have more specialised manoeuvres. The locations have the same type of fog of war as the original, a smart system that gives you sightlines through the murk rather than a woolly ever-receding border.

Despite the mercs, Hunters 2 isn't about rushing in and trusting to the stats. The single-player campaign, a new feature for the series, introduces things gently but it's soon made clear that this is a game about careful footsteps and checking corners. Rushing anywhere is basically a death wish, with levels devilishly constructed around dark pockets of enemies, and the 'guard' icon is pretty soon a finger's best buddy.

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Though visually similar to the original, Hunters 2 adds a bevvy of incidental lighting and gunfire effects, including blood spatters and crackling flames.

Learning the basics of your team's capabilities is one thing, but picking up on how each weapon is best utilised and how to spread your forces is what makes the difference. Troops end up moving in lockstep, covering each other's backs constantly and guarding wounded comrades - or everyone dies. The different classes come with upgrade paths that open tactical possibilities rather than just increasing firepower, and the constant chink of loot during missions is the best kind of reinforcement there is.

However, a pretty decent seven levels plus boss fight turns out to be it for campaign - a bit of a damp squib for 2.99, which it says here is also a "SPECIAL LAUNCH PRICE". It closes just as things get going, and doesn't offer enough. Thankfully, the daily missions just keep on coming. These tend to be easy to complete, with a secondary objective that's trickier to pull off - and at between five and ten minutes a go are perfectly snack-sized.

That's where the value for money comes from, but all of this begs another question: where's the multiplayer? The battle system of Hunters 2 seems built for asynchronous multiplayer without a single change required - and, indeed, new features like the ability to craft armour and weapons seem purpose-built for such an eventuality. There's a wide range of kit available for mercs to use, and mind-boggling depths to the levelling and upgrades, but what I really need to get interested is the prospect of using my dream team online.

The short campaign, and the as-yet-sparse number of daily missions, raise such thoughts. Nevertheless, that mission a day will continue to expand Hunters 2's polished turn-based blasting, and if you have the mindset to play a game in bites rather than in chunks then it's perfect. Hunters 2 is a pretty good game. But it feels like the single-player half of an amazing one.

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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