From freebie to paid game, the small team behind the burgeoning Aurora Feint franchise are confident that they can compete in the bloody arena of iPhone gaming with their much-anticipated multiplayer puzzler. Aurora Feint II: The Arena takes a bold step forward, moving into the competitive realm of premium gaming. Given an impressive slate of features and keen eye for addictive design, all signs point to a victory in The Arena.

Aurora Feint: The Beginning is among the most popular games on iPhone, matching buzz for premium paid titles like Texas Hold'em and Super Monkey Ball. That momentum is expected to drive sales of the sequel, which comes with a $7.99 introductory price tag (£4.99 in the UK, rising to £5.99 after Christmas). "We feel like our fan base will be interested in buying," assures Peter Relan, chairman of the company. "We had fans on the forum begging us to open a tip jar, a paid app."

Intense competition on the App Store, though, means Aurora Feint II may have difficulty gaining traction. As we've previously reported, droves of quality games have been discounted in a desperate effort to court sales in a crowded market. Games struggle to succeed at $0.99, let alone $7.99 or $9.99 – Aurora Feint II's permanent price point.

Fears of an overcrowded market don't scared Relan in the least. "iPhone is like the Wild West," he jokes. According to his analogy, those who end up on top are able to release high quality games at value-driven price. Value, however, doesn't imply low pricing; instead, Relan observes that pricing needs to reflect the value you receive out of the game as a consumer. Aurora Feint II, he contends, will be among the most value-packed on the App Store. Future updates promise added content to a sequel already brimming with innovative multiplayer and cutting-edge social networking features. "We expect to update with more stuff," hints Jason Citron, one of the game's designers.

There's more than enough in place to keep you busy until that day comes, nevertheless. Asynchronous multiplayer allows you to compete against ghost data created by your friends whenever, wherever – they don't even need to be signed into the game. "If you've ever played Mario Kart, you get the basic concept," explains Citron. "Your buddy plays and uploads a ghost that you can compete with anytime you want."

A comprehensive set of social features allows networking in ways that haven't been possible in an iPhone game until now. Partner in design Danielle Cassley points out that every player gets a wall on which you can place tags, as well as an in-game friends' list and messaging.

"When we look at the App Store, it's a bunch of games that are lower quality, not a whole lot of fun," admits Citron. Inspiration to create a compelling iPhone exclusive arose from that observation. He continues, "The goal is to make games that you could see on a console." Cassley goes a step further in trumpeting that "[Aurora Feint II] is one of the highest quality apps on the store."

Confidence in their game undoubtedly stems from having already launched a title on the platform. Not without its problems, the release of the first Aurora Feint served lessons that made development of the sequel much easier. "We ran through several beta cycles," recounts Cassley. "We have a pretty sophisticated piece of technology that deals with the changing memory conditions of the iPhone," she assures us. "Most users will not experience memory crashes."

Everything has been improved this second time around from visuals to gameplay to stability. "This is much, much closer to what we wanted in the first game." With Aurora Feint II: The Arena pending certification, we should know soon if it is indeed the sequel we've been wanting.