N.O.V.A. – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance HD Review

The first thing we’ll mention about N.O.V.A. HD is the first thing you’ll notice when you fire it up on the iPad: this game looks amazing. The high-res graphics and added screen size make the alien worlds pop off the device and straight into your puny earthling face. It also runs very smoothly on the souped-up hardware.

Unfortunately, the controls have not benefited at all from the upgrade. While an iPhone feels cozy and manageable in your hands when held like a controller, the iPad is huge and unwieldy. To make matters worse, the complex controls of N.O.V.A. require your thumbs to flit all over the screen as you play. By default, the buttons are laid in positions that look attractive in screenshots but make playing all but impossible. The movement stick and shoot buttons are too high, and the reload button is located way at the top of the screen.

Halo called. They want their game back.

So it’s a good thing that you can customize the controls to your heart’s content. We spent the better part of 10 minutes adjusting the button placement and look sensitivity before we felt like we could control the game with any speed or precision. Still, when we went back to the iPhone version, we felt much more comfortable.

A few details have been added to the HD version of the game, like a minimap and the ability to curve grenade throws. The map is pretty useless, since there’s always an arrow directing you to your next objective, and we never found much need to put spin on grenades.

So unless you prize visuals over gameplay to such an extent that you’re willing to put up with frustration and unfair deaths, stick to the definitive version of the game on the iPhone. With lots of tweaking, the iPad version is playable, but the experience remains cumbersome.

Editor’s Note: This review only covers the content exclusive to the iPad version of this game. For the full game review, click here.

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