If there’s one genre that fills our hearts with glee and childlike joy, it’s the good old fashioned space dogfighter. From the early days of Elite and Star Wars: TIE Fighter all the way to EVE: Valkyrie and Rebel Galaxy, taking to the stars and blowing other starships into crystalised bits has never really lost its lustre. Nintendo Switch isn’t short on these intergalactic adventures either, with the good (Manticore: Galaxy on Fire, Everspace) the not so good (Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut), and everything in between. Because now we have another plucky young pilot attempting to make a name for itself across the virtual cosmos in Subdivision Infinity DX.
Much like the aforementioned Galaxy on Fire series, SIDX is a mobile title that’s made the jump to lightspeed from touchscreen smart devices to consoles. As such, it’s important to note that this is a title that was originally designed with short bursts of play in mind, with an interface that’s not always played well with this type of game. Thankfully, the original Subdivision Infinity was one of the better examples of touchscreen optimisation, so it makes the transition to analogue controls with ease. Controlling your ship (there are 10 to choose from, each with their own unique set of specs) couldn’t be easier to pick up, with movement controlled with the right analogue stick and thrust channelled through ‘ZL’ and the left stick.
You start off with a basic Gatling gun and a set of seeker missiles, but the more missions you complete, the more rewards and cash you’ll earn in order to buy new ones or upgrade your existing arsenal to make it that little bit deadlier. Fallen drones and enemy fighters will also drop resources, although it’s often difficult to make these out and you’ll mostly collect them without realising they’re there. Missions are also short and sweet, as you’d expect with a game originally designed for mobile users, and you’re instantly dropped into the action so no need to worry about extended periods of travel. After a short loading screen (in fact, loading across the board in Subdivision Infinity DX is impressively brief), you’ll immediately enter into the thick of combat against everything from unmanned drones to boss-like capital ships.
Every dogfight is simple to leap into, thanks mainly to the smoothness of the control scheme, and it’s easy to lock on to enemy gun emplacements and ships. However, your hand is held a little too much at times, with the game choosing to automatically lock you on whenever your sights are within close proximity to a foe. It can be quite frustrating as part of the attraction of a dogfighter is juggling inertia and momentum when lining up a shot. Subdivision Infinity DX was made to get you shooting down ships faster, but once you’ve unlocked more and more regions of space, you do start to long for the more accurate (and ultimately more challenging) manual targeting systems found in the likes of Skies of Fury DX.
Combat itself is fast and frenetic for the most part, with enemy ships often squading up to flank you as a group. Enemies are a little too accurate with their shots - especially gun emplacements - but once you’ve levelled up your weapons enough, you’re soon able to level the playing field. The grander missions, which see you having to destroy larger ships in multiple stages, are a genuine highlight, and help add a little more challenge than simply taking down defences on an orbital base or destroying a squadron of drones. Tedium does set in after a while though, especially when you realise various story beats are just hiding the same old mission structures, time and time again.
Alongside a relatively meaty campaign (where new regions are periodically unlocked, offering up the largest rewards for crafting new ships, purchasing weapon upgrades and new gear) there are some additional ways to explore the stars in Subdivision Infinity DX. There are side missions to undertake, including non-combat quests involving mining rocks for materials. It’s not quite on the sedate level of Mass Effect 2’s mining pastime, but it offers a weirdly enjoyable way to break up all the dogfights. You can also head in search of blueprints, but these are often a little too obscure to make out, an issue that crops up a little too often in combat and regular exploration.
In terms of presentation, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. Maps are small, but the level of detail given to your intergalactic backdrops are even more impressive than they were on mobile, with asteroid fields glittering around distant planets and enemy ships leaving energy streaks as they pass by. Not every asset looks particularly memorable, and enemy ship designs can sometimes lack detail in places. The soundtrack definitely takes more than a few cues from the Mass Effect series, but it does the job and suits the setting, even if it is a little uninspired. There’s no voice over, which is a shame, so you’re left reading on-screen text in a game that’s largely higher in production values elsewhere.
Subdivision Infinity DX is a decent space dogfighter that makes the transition from mobile to console without feeling like a cheap port. Controls are tight and responsive, but they are let down by an auto-targeting system that makes engaging in combat a little too easy. Missions do get a little repetitive after a while, but those involving battles with much larger ships (including the enjoyable boss fights) really help redress the balance. Presentation is a little inconsistent, but the visuals and performance really show a) how far mobile games have come, and b) how a little extra processing power can go a long way.