iPhone Game of the Day: Dark Nova

Game: Dark Nova
Price: £2.39/$3.99
Size: 13.5MB
Buy it now from the iTunes StoreUS/UK

If your eyes light up when you hear the word "Elite" in a non-Xbox 360 setting, go buy Dark Nova right now. Everyone else, listen up. Back in1984's early days ofPC gaming, whenthe computerswere made of wood and the mouse and keyboard were just two rocks the user banged together, there was a game called Elite. It was a tough game to explain because it sounded boring. You were a space trucker. You had a cargo ship and a galactic map and you made your living flying from planet to planet buying low and selling high. If you were visiting an agricultural planet, you loaded up on plentiful, low-cost wares likefood and furs, which you then soldon a technologically advanced planet at a high price. Then, you loaded up on cheapcomputers, headed back to farm world, and sold those at a high price.


Above: Amazingly, sheer delight.

See? Boring. Only it wasn't. It rocked. You could install a hyperdrive to ease the monotony, upgrade your ship with lasers to fend off pirates (or police, if you were trading in illegal items such as narcotics or slave), even install solar scoops that enabled you to fill your fuel tanks by skimming the surface of the sun. And somehow, even if you didn't doany of those things (or encounter the strange Thargoid alien ships) and just stuck to the trading, Elite was still captivating.


Above:These two screensshowhow interstellar travel looks in Dark Nova. It actually works pretty well.

The reason for this history lesson is simple: Dark Nova is basically Elite, boiled down to its very essence. You don't actually see yourself flying through space in 3D (or bashing into the space station trying to dock). Your interplanetaryjumpsare illustrated with a simple timeline that tells you when you encounter another trader, pirates, or the fuzz (see image above). But everything else is there.

You've still got pirates and police and various spaceships to purchase and outfit, ranging from your starter craft to massive, dreadnought-class warcruisers. You can still dabble in the black market for huge, quick profits, or simply become a straight-up pirate. You can accept passengers or hire crewmen, even trade with other traders mid-flight, things Elite didn'teven do. And this is nearly as compelling and captivating as that original game. Plus, Dark Nova can be completely satisfying when played in 60-second chunks. Standing in the grocery line? Fire it up and do a couple quick virtual milk runs to pass the time.It's really just brilliant.


Above: We haven't encountered any hostile alien races sucking us into witch space yet, but we've a lot of galaxy still to explore.

Jul 7, 2010