Cancer research isn't a topic that comes up very often in the world of gaming. No matter how good the technology is, it can be slow and tedious work. It's only natural that researchers would want to speed it up a bit. And if speeding it up also happens to involve shooting asteroids with lasers, so much the better. That's what Cancer Research UK thought when they teamed up with Guerilla Tea to create Play to Cure: Genes in Space. In the game, it is the year 2594, you work for Bifrost Industries, and your job is to collect as much of a mysterious substance called Element Alpha as you can.
The most important step in harvesting Element Alpha is to plot your route. Tap on the Route Mapping screen to move the line that represents your course, making sure that the line goes through the points where the Element Alpha is thickest. Once you're satisfied with your course, tap "Play" and you'll get to fly along it. You can navigate either by tilting your device or holding your finger on the side of the screen you want to move toward (you can change this in the game's settings). Shoot asteroids by tapping the screen. Your ship targets them automatically, which is good because once you start hitting asteroid fields, you'll be too busy shooting to worry about where you're aiming. Once you reach the end of your course, you can trade in your Element Alpha for credits, which you can use to buy upgrades, so you can improve your ship so you can collect more Element Alpha, so you can buy more upgrades, so you can improve your ship...
Each field you plot a course through represents a real sample of a person's genes, and plotting your course through the thickest deposits helps show scientists where to look for the genetic abnormalities that can cause cancer. (More information on how the game helps fight cancer can be found Cancer Research UK's website.) While the game's shooter and collection elements definitely take the backseat to the course plotting, that doesn't stop the game from being well-crafted and engaging. The graphics are polished and there's no shortage of upgrades to strive for. The way the game is structured, it's easy to play one level while waiting in a long line or wondering where the heck your bus is. Playing Genes in Space, it's easy to forget that while you're destroying asteroids, you're also helping to save people's lives.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the LG Optimus L9. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.