New Dawn is replete in movie-style trappings, from beautiful visuals to an intense musical score. But this is very much arcade fare, not simulation. It’s a seat-of-the-pants roller-coaster on the way down, avoiding massive space rocks by a hair’s breadth; then the pace switches to delicate nudges as you try to land intact.

Both gameplay types can be brutal, and you frequently hit missions that initially seem impossible. However, while mastery may not be obvious, revisit an earlier level – like returning to those old games – and you’ll see how far you and New Dawn alike have progressed. Landing on the moon seems like playing in slow motion when you’re otherwise battling insanely tough missions to Venus.

But in those later stages, New Dawn wobbles a little. The lack of an instant restart button irks, the game forcing you to watch yet another failed landing, your craft pinwheeling sickeningly slowly through space until it smashes into the surface. Your craft unsportingly exploding on straying too far from the landing zone seems unnecessary, too – a fuel countdown’s quite enough to ramp up the tension.

Still, for all its frustrating moments, New Dawn is a success: a compelling, exhilarating journey through the void, ideally suited to mobile play.

Solar Explorer: New Dawn is available for iOS. It was previously released for Windows (Steam). An Android version is in development and due for release this summer.


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