Game Review: StarDrone Extreme (PS Vita)

StarDrone Extreme PS Vita

StarDrone Extreme is an action game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. StarDrone Extreme was released in 2012 and is an improved port of the PS3 version, which itself was released a year beforehand. It is an action game first and foremost, but has puzzle elements due to consistently being challenged to figure out the precise angles to launch your ship in order to stay on course and out of trouble.

The basic premise of the game is to collect all of the stars, earn your personal best high score and strive for the gold medal on each of the sixty levels, while attempting to avoid the spikes and various enemy encounters along the way. Aiming your craft at the appropriate angle with the tether function is imperative to staying out of trouble and keeping your craft on course. The tether function works by tapping and holding your finger on the touch screen when your ship is near a beacon, which are usually located just to the side or in the centre of the passages that the levels take place within. This is a clever design choice as it means that the beacon never obscures your view of where you should aim your craft to move.

There are a total of sixty levels including ten exclusive levels in the Vita version that were not in the PS3 version. Each level has a set amount of stars that you are required to pass through in order to light them up before you can complete the level with some levels consisting of additional targets, such as collecting shreds of Equilibrix and restoring it within an empty star in a part of the level before the level can end. There are certain levels with collectables that will provide you with more points towards earning a higher score as will destroying enemies and breakable objects. There are four enemies referred to as “Evil G-Noids” that you have to be wary of including: creepers, vibemasters, mines and spikes. There are certain levels that require you to destroy your enemies as quickly as possible, which are referred to as the Comet Rush mode. The Comet Rush mode is activated by lighting up a certain amount of consecutive stars in order to fill your star meter which is situated at the top of the screen.

There are three power-ups including: berserk, magnet and invisibility that can be collected by flying through the individual power-up icons. The berserk power-up makes your craft destroy every enemy and object nearby, while the magnet lights stars and collects gems that would normally be out of reach and invisibility will make your craft invisible to every enemy.

The i icon in the level select menu provides statistics for the level that you have highlighted across numerous details including: times played, times failed, success ratio, total time wasted, total stars lit, total enemies killed, highest score, best time, stars lit, enemies killed and the best medal earned for each level, which is helpful as it provides you with knowledge on how you can improve upon your personal best high score.

There is cloud saving and cloud loading functionality, which allows you to save your game progression to cloud storage on your Vita while you are playing the game on your travels and to also load your progression from cloud storage onto your PS3 where you can then continue where you left off on the Vita version.

If you are feeling frustrated by a particular level, then you can use the level skip feature to skip past the level that is causing you problems via free downloadable content available from the PlayStation Store, which is a positive design choice as it allows you to continue experiencing and progressing through the game and provides a real improvement over the PS3 version which lacked the option.

The controls are rather simple and are as easy to master as the PS3 version which supported the DualShock 3 controller and the PlayStation Move, while the Vita version has a total of three control configurations. There is one touch screen based control configuration that consists of simply tapping and holding your finger on the touch screen on top of the beacon of your choice and releasing your finger when you believe you have the correct angle to travel in the appropriate direction. There are two rear touch pad based control configurations with the first consisting of applying exactly the same technique as the touch screen configuration, but using the rear touch pad instead; while the second consists of pretty much the same with the difference being that the entire rear touch pad essentially becomes one button with the game predicting which beacon is the nearest and the most effective to use to provide you with the appropriate angle and direction.

The graphics are basic yet effective as they are quite colourful and are even better than those of the original PS3 version. The craft, enemies, stars, objects and environments all look and feel considerably brighter and more colourful than the PS3 version.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, options menu and online leaderboards, although it lacks any ability for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, which is strange as that form of navigation was already available in the original PS3 version; although the overall presentation of the Vita version looks and feels better than that of the PS3 version. The presentation of the original PS3 version had a listing of all of the sixty levels on one scrolling screen, whereas the Vita version has five screens with twelve levels available from each and for every level you successfully complete the panel that you chose the level from turns from the number of the level into a part of a picture that eventually reveals the StarDrone logo; kind of like a picture puzzle.

The music is a fusion of dance music with atmospheric space sound effects to form a crossover between sci-fi themed dance and trance music. While the music and sound effects are pretty good; there is not enough variation to prevent them from becoming repetitive.

The trophy list includes fifteen trophies with thirteen bronze trophies, one silver trophy and one gold trophy. The trophies are mostly quite easy and are earned naturally through completing all of the levels the game has to offer, such as the “Passed 10 levels!”, “Passed 20 levels!”, “Passed 30 levels!” and “Passed 40 levels!” bronze trophies and the “Game Finished!” silver trophy for completing all of the sixty levels. There are even easier bronze trophies called “New Hope” for completing the first level; “Lost in space” for getting sucked into a black hole three times and “Epic fail!” for failing to complete a level in twenty attempts by being sucked into a black hole or by any means of losing all of your health and having to restart the level. However, there are also difficult trophies including the “Medalist” gold trophy for collecting at least one medal for each of the sixty levels. I would estimate depending upon skill and whether you have a trophy guide to help you out with the finer details of certain trophies, such as the “I got the powah!” bronze trophy for using all three of the power-ups and what the power-up icons look like and how to be sucked into a black hole that it would take between three to five hours to 100% the trophy list.

The online leaderboards focus on the overall world rankings, top friends rankings and my score rankings with each based upon the overall score across all of the levels; the amount of bronze, silver and gold medals you have accumulated across all of the levels (with gold obviously outweighing bronze and silver) and the overall time you have taken to complete all of the levels with each leaderboard containing each players’ rank; name (PSN ID); overall score; bronze, silver and gold medals and overall time.

There are two difficulty levels including: easy and hard, along with an adjustable game speed ranging anywhere between one and ten, which increases the difficulty in itself as it makes you have to react faster to enemies and spinning off the level into a black hole. The adjustable game speed makes a noticeable difference regardless of whether you are playing the game on easy or hard as the variation of speed when played at its slowest in comparison to that of being played when it is fully dialled up to ten at its fastest is quite remarkable and will initially provide a shock to the system, taking some time getting used to, especially if you are only used to playing the game at the slowest game speed. However, a rather useful feature of the in-game options menu allows you to adjust the game speed whenever you want to; providing you with the opportunity for experimentation to dial the game speed to a level that matches your skill level and reaction time or makes you excel beyond your comfort zone by providing somewhat of a test. There is certainly good motivation to play on the hard difficulty level, as playing on hard mode earns you a higher amount of score points.

The hard mode in StarDrone Extreme is the equivalent difficulty level of the PS3 version which only had one difficulty level. The main difference between the easy mode and hard mode is that if you choose the easy mode; you will only be rewarded with only half of the points as you would with the same performance on hard mode.

StarDrone Extreme has a considerable amount of replayability with fun gameplay that makes you want to give it one more try for each of the sixty levels. Competing for higher positions on the online leaderboards; bronze, silver and gold medals based upon high scores; personal best scores and times all provide reasons and motivations to return to levels.

Overall, StarDrone Extreme is the best version of the game as it significantly improves upon the foundation created by the original PS3 game with sixty levels including ten exclusive to the Vita, improved graphics and presentation and three new control configurations. With the considerable amount of gameplay you get for just £3.19 for the Vita version or £3.99 for the bundle containing the Vita and PS3 versions; it is incredibly easy to recommend the bundle of StarDrone Extreme for the Vita and StarDrone for the PS3.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: StarDrone Extreme
  • Publisher: Beatshapers
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Online Leaderboards
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 168Mb

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