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App Friday: Galaxy on Fire 2 and Star Battalion HD duke it out on iPad

It’s been a good week for hardcore gaming on the iPad, with yesterday’s release of on-rails shooter RAGE, and now a head-to-head battle between two immersive space-opera games: Galaxy on Fire 2 and Star Battalion HD.

The first, developed by Fishlabs, has been out on iPhone for a few weeks, but the app was just updated to be Universal, with high-res graphics and an iPad-friendly user interface.

The game sees you exploring more than 20 solar systems, mixing trading, battles and diplomacy to make your way across the galaxy. There are more than 30 space ships to buy and customise, and a rich, deep plotline to keep your attention.

You can save screenshots and upload them to Facebook for bragging rights from within the game, and it ties into two different iOS gaming communities – Game Center and OpenFeint – for high scores, achievements and other connected features. Obviously, for Game Center you’ll have to wait for Apple to release the iOS 4.2 software for iPad later this month – but the feature is there ready for when they do.

Star Battalion HD is the work of rival publisher Gameloft isn’t a direct rival – it’s more arcadey – but offers an equally polished take on interplanetary star pilots.

You get four starships to fly, completing a series of bullet-heavy missions as part of a wider plot involving Royalists versus The Resistance. It has a nifty co-op multiplayer feature that can be played with others online, or via local Wi-Fi / Bluetooth connection.

It too will support Game Center once the iOS 4.2 update is available, but for now, the eye-popping visuals are the biggest draw, backed up with decent gameplay depth.

As an extra, Gameloft has released an official ‘Comic Book’ app to introduce you to the Star Battalion universe. It’s free to download on iPad, and well worth a look.

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