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App of the Day: Silpheed Alternative

Dog-fighting man.

Fire up those thrusters? Count the escape pods? Mute the audio? All good, but maybe double-check the last one - it's super important. Great! All done. We're ready to go into space, then, up into a realm of bloomy suns and neon disco nebulae. Silpheed Alternative is going to show us the galaxy, and then we'll get to shoot it to pieces.

Silpheed turns up on Android as a fairly smart 3D dog-fighter. It doesn't really feel that much like the Silpheed of old, perhaps, but it's perfectly decent in its own right. There are tilt controls, which are a little too vague for me, but there's also a surprisingly good virtual thumbstick, and if you use that in concert with the onscreen radar, navigation feels wonderfully precise. Okay: let's shoot some enemies.

You can upgrade your weapons in the menus, but be warned - the Back button is a little fiddly.

Enemies come at you in flocks. There are little guys who go down with a single missile, and then battleships that take dozens of hits before dissolving in bursts of golden light. Some of these craft are pretty gigantic, and you'll get a real Star Wars vibe as you zoom in close, lock on, and then let rip, leaving clusters of colourful explosions in your wake. You've got two weapon types to choose from, by the way, with your sub-weapon offering a decent mini-gun sort of thing. Your main weapon allows you to paint enemies to target them, and then release a volley of far more powerful shots at once.

Weapons can be upgraded, and there are some nice trade-offs to pick through, as you decide whether to go with a bigger punch for your main gun, say, at the expense of how many enemies you can tag at once. There's nothing truly game-altering waiting to be unlocked, though, and the system largely seems to be in place to give you something to do between missions.

The campaign, meanwhile, is short but full of dog-fighty action - not literal dog-fighting, obviously, because that would be horrific - and it's all extremely pretty, too. The game's wraparound skyboxes are dazzling slabs of Hubble-style colour, but they remain surprisingly readable as the bogeys swarm in, and there are curving grid lines to help you get your bearings as you zip around. I think these are meant to make you feel as if you're lying at the very centre of some hi-tech, holographic compass. To me it seems more like you're stuck in a Perspex hamster ball, but I'll take my fun where I can get it these days, and I've always kind of liked hamster balls anyway.

Get them! All of them!

Audio, though. Oh, boy. You'll try it out, perhaps, just the way you'll often want to dip your little toe in a freezing river when somebody else tells you it's really horrible in there and there are probably piranhas knocking around too. Naff club tunes, awful voiceovers: in space, nobody should have to hear anyone reading through a script like this.

Perhaps it just adds to the charm, giving this likeable but fairly standard dog-fighter a touch of exotic old school personality. Silpheed Alternative isn't going to blow you away, then, but it's lavish and hectic, and good for an hour or two of mindless blasting.

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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