iPhone review of the day: Starfront: Collision - yeah, it's a StarCraft clone, but it's a damn good one

On iPhone
Starfront: Collision
Price: $6.99 / £3.99
Size: 682 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store:US/UK

Publisher Gameloft takes a lot of heat for its habit of releasing copycat titles (NOVA 2 is a Halo wannabe, for instance), but if the original series isn’t available on iOS and the clones are this good, we’ve got no problem with it. Starfront Collision borrows liberally from the legendary real-time strategy series StarCraft, but does a damn fine job of it, complete with three races, a full campaign and four-player multiplayer support. Starfront is a wonderful approximation of everything we dig about StarCraft, and if the big players aren’t going to take advantage of the platform, we’ll happily settle for the next best thing.

Granted, this isn’t an exact duplicate – it’s not as pretty, it’s more straightforward, its units more likely to get caught on corners, and it’s been dumbed down and streamlined quite a bit, making it a better fit for portable, quick play. But that’s fine – unadjusted, the real StarCraft would probably be a horrendous experience on iPhone (the controls alone would be a nightmare) so don’t let these differences dissuade you from grabbing Collision immediately. It’s simpler, but still very solid, and you’ll still have a blast building bases, amassing armies and invading enemies.

There's a hefty amount of single-player content, not to mention its online multiplayer component. Three campaigns for three races – humans, robots and Zer—er, other aliens – is nothing to scoff at, and though the missions are as easy-to-grasp as “go there, kill everything,” we enjoyed the hell out of upgrading our troops and defending against invading forces. This genre’s a natural fit for touch displays, even if the screen gets a bit cramped on the iPhone (we booted the app on our iPad just for the breathing room and it played even better).

In fact, the biggest obstacle to overcome in Starfront: Collisionis a questionable pricing scheme. There are two versions of the game currently on the iTunes store. The one called “Starfront – Collision” (which we’ve linked to above) is a straight-up $6.99 purchase. Buy this one! In the other, called “Starfront: Collision”, the game is listed as “free,” but the free version is actually just a tutorial and one-mission demo. It’s a great introduction, but barely a sufficient amount of content to constitute an app at all. The rest of the game can still be unlocked with a $6.99 in-app purchase, but it’s not clear how this works if you uninstall and reinstall it, or switch iphones, because the iTunes store just tracks the initial download of the free demo, not the in-app purchase. We’ve contacted Gameloft for clarification, but haven’t yet heard back. So just to be safe, shell out for the $7 up front version, and startsinking hours into this impressive beast of a game.

March 4, 2011