It took nearly two hours to grind through the snail-paced, text-heavy tutorial and pass Vendetta Online’s obligatory flying test, sapping much of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the ambitious space shooter along the way.

Guild Software’s game is a bold effort at crafting a fully fledged space shooter MMO for Tegra-powered Android tablets, but it’s marred by sluggish controls and a criminally slow sense of progress.

Before long, you’ll start wondering whether you could have become an interstellar pirate quicker if you had just cryogenically frozen yourself for a couple of millennia.

One slow step for man?

Still, you have to admire the developers for populating your Android tablet with an entire bustling universe, filled with enemy ships to blast and rare items to trade between vast space stations.

A spin-off from the PC and Mac title of the same name, Vendetta Online is also one of those rare beasts that offers true cross-platform play (including player vs player combat) with desktop platforms.

Less impressive, however, is the effort spent on hooking players into the undoubtedly vast, evolving, massively multiplayer experience.

This is a vintage MMO with an emphasis on long-term commitment and Zen-like patience for grinding up the levels to fly the best ships, rather than the quick-fire thrills the average handheld gamer craves.

Even when you’ve graduated from pilot school, your first missions as freelance fighter, trader, or pirate (outside picking a hostile or passive race you’re free to forge your own career path) are standard fetch quests and ‘shoot five of this enemy’ affairs that hardly entice you into the undoubtedly rich game world.

Getting out into the solar system is where the real action is, including tense battles with the malevolent Hive race, but it’s a long, asteroid-strewn road to get there.

Full beam ahead

Bizarrely, considering its main market should be Honeycomb-toting tablets, Vendetta Online will not let you use a game controller for flying. Instead, you’re left with choosing between a too-rigid virtual stick or often-disorienting tilt controls.

Neither proves ideal once you’re in open space and fighting for your life, but they’re serviceable enough once you pick a style and stick with it.

Just why crucial buttons like ‘Activate’ (used for hyper jumping across the galaxies and docking) are placed out of thumb reach in the centre of the screen remains a mystery – perhaps you’re supposed to use your nose.

It all feels like a rushed conversion of the PC original, given away by the copious references to computer keys in the menus. This is exacerbated when visiting space stations to trade goods or buy new weapons and add-ons for your ships (you can own a fleet), where menus are cluttered, layered in myriad tabs, and written in tiny text.

Boldly stalling

Crucially, every aspect of flying, fighting, and trading lacks the addictive flow of its closest (albeit single-player-only) rival, Galaxy on Fire 2.

There might be Guilds to join, a stalwart community to chat with, and the chance to enter massive PvP events, but if the basics don’t feel right then most budding wing commanders will take the nearest jump gate to a more elite offering.

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