Game Review: Stellar Attack (PSP Mini)

There is a lot to be said for previous generations of games consoles and computers. When systems were less powerful, games had to get straight to the point… we weren’t always bogged down with over-complicated plots and storylines for games, we didn’t have to spend hours wading through tutorials just to get to grips with a game’s control systems, nor did we need an instruction manual that made War And Peace seem like a promotional flyer. Games were simple and easy to pick up and play without compromising when it came to gameplay.

Stellar Attack is one such game. Forget about a convoluted plot about an alien invasion, a character that you are playing who has to save the universe or anything ridiculous like that to distract you from the game. Stallar Attack just gives everything to you straight and that makes a rather refreshing change. The game is a no-nonsense affair and while it’s easy to pick up, it’s hard to master and that is what makes it stand out from most other sci-fi shooters in the Minis range.

To start off with, you are in control of a spaceship… a ship equipped with lasers. You have to use these lasers to destroy a series of missile turrets to complete each of the game’s 20 levels with more turrets being found on each level. That would be simple enough if it wasn’t for the fact that the turrets are protected by orbs that are rotating around the turret. These orbs can be destroyed with your laser but it’s not as simple as that… the orbs are colour coded and the only way they can be destroyed is by firing the appropriate coloured laser at them to destroy them. Fortunately, you can alter the colour of your laser depending on the action button you press. Press the wrong button to shoot and the orb will be left undamaged. Once you have a clear shot at the turret, fire off as many shots as you can with any coloured laser to reduce it’s energy to nothing and blow it out of the stars…

Stellar Attack is all about scores. The more orbs you successfully destroy in a row, you will be awarded a points multiplier allowing you to build up higher scores at the end of each level but this will be wiped out should you break that chain of correctly coloured shots. Additional orbs will also appear at random offering bonus points, will slow the orbs down, destroy connecting orbs to make your job of destroying the turret easier and other benefits. It’s not all good though as some have a negative effect on the game including speeding up the movement of the orbs, firing homing missiles at you, and a few other surprises that I’ll leave for you to discover for yourself…

While all of this is happening, not only do you have to fly your ship to position yourself to get the best shot both at the turrets and the orbs, but you also need to keep an eye on all the shots coming in at you from all directions so you need to keep your wits about you at all times. The game offers a choice of control methods using the left analogue stick either direct control (the ship moving in the direction you push) or vector controls (which is based around rotating your ship and controlling forward and reverse thrust only) so you can find whichever method works best for you. Each method provides you with a choice of three different ships, each with their own handling, weapon and shield attributes that affect the game, and there are three difficulty settings.

There are three main game modes on offer – Modern (which is the main game where you progress through all 20 levels), Core (a survival mode where you start the game with no shields and earn lives as you destroy turrets during the game) and Attack (which is a timed mode where you lose time rather than lives each time you are destroyed and you can only gain time by destroying turrets). This adds extra longevity to the game beyond the initial 20 levels ensuring that you’ll come back to the game even when you’ve exhausted the main game mode.

Visually, the game is functional at best but it works well enough. It’s easy enough to identify the orbs clearly and although there is a minimalistic look to the whole game, it’s not a title that needs stunning graphics and sound although the music and sound effects certainly outshine the visuals. My once concern here however is the game’s dependance on colour. For anyone who is colour-blind, it would be physically impossible for them to play Stellar Attack. Other than the colour, there is no way to distinguish between the types of orbs (no markings, patterns or anything else) so so you need to be able to tell the difference between red, blue, yellow and green to be able to play this game. This may sound like a rather minor point, but perhaps it’s something that could have been worked around with a visual change to the orbs?

Despite that minor quibble, this is a great game and certainly offers a rather unique twist on the shoot-em-up genre. With the on-screen help always present, there’s no concern over the control systems and worrying about what button you need to use for each colour so it makes it a joy to play. As most gamers will find which is their ideal control method quickly, all you need to do is focus on enjoying the game… and I can’t see that being a problem for the majority of you! Well worth considering at the price.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Stellar Attack
  • Publisher: Laughing Jackal
  • System: PSP Minis
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 32Mb
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