Real-time strategy snobs insist that the only platform their games of choice work on is the PC, and for good reason.

There are almost no examples of excellent RTS games on consoles, due to clunky gamepad controls. And there are none on handhelds because the screens are too small. But now the iPad, with ample room to tap and micromanage buildings, resources and units, has come along and given RTS obsessives a viable alternative.

Although the updated version of the 1999 PC RTS Imperium Galactica 2: Alliances is far from perfect, it serves as an often spectacular tech demo to show what the genre can be on a tablet. It starts right out of the gate with stunning cinematics that took full advantage of our iPad 2's visual capabilities. It's a good thing we didn't have a current-generation iPad handy, because the graphics may well have made us wet our pants.

The visual fidelity plummets after the intro, but the game still looks presentable, no doubt benefiting from a complete graphical overhaul to bring it up to code. We only wish the game had somehow come with a physical manual so we could have figured out how to play the darn thing faster.

The game is as unabashedly geeky as they come, requiring intense devotion to get a handle of the back story. The setup is just as inaccessible. We spent probably half our playtime fumbling through the interface, making sure we understood what we were doing as we attempted to colonize planets, extract resources and prepare our forces for battle.

Those used to the cut-and-dried interplanetary dominion of Mass Effect 3 will have a tough time cycling through their ship fleets, determining out plans of attack and managing battles. Even though we admittedly didn't know what we were doing half the time, we felt as though we were fully in control, and were never stifled by the hardware.

The large touch screen, in fact, was a life-saver. The thought of having to flip through menus with analog sticks was terrifying.

Any game that dares to charge much more than the commonly accepted dollar point needs to prove its worth. Even for an old game, Alliances delivers the goods. This is a game in which you could easily lose weeks, if not months. And maybe at that point you can come back and teach us how to play.

RATING: 8/10

Imperium Galactica 2: Alliances ($3.99), available on iPad, was published by Digital Reality Software Kft, which provided a download code for review. We played the game for three hours on an iPad 2.