Nearly one year ago, I reviewed
Beatshapers‘ StarDrone on the PlayStation Network. The game was fun, and proved to be an enjoyable experience, even though its charm wasn’t as long-lasting as it could have been; or should have been for that matter. Now, a year later, StarDrone is back with a revamped version on Sony’s new handheld. Thanks to a refined control scheme, StarDrone Extreme helps the game finally live up to its the potential I always knew it had.
StarDrone Extreme plays exactly like the original game; you control a small ship with no ability to steer, start, or stop. The only thing that you can do is use a grappling hook style contraption to latch onto nodes around the level to swing your self into various directions. As I described it originally, the game is a blend pinball, with some brick breaking and a side of physics- and puzzle-based elements.
Although you can’t stop, you still have a means of dictating the path of your ship thanks to a grappling hook-like device mounted on your ship. Players can use this tool to grab onto nodes scattered around the environment and swing your ship into the desired direction using your momentum, or to gain more. In the original version, you could latch onto these nodes by using either the X button on the PS3 controller or, if you used the PlayStation Move, by pointing and triggering at your desired connection point.
While both those control schemes worked, they paled into comparison of the methods found on the updated Vita version. Now, things are as simple as touching and releasing your finger as you project your ship through space. The use of the PS Vita touchscreen to latch onto these nodes is truly the way that this game was meant to be played. The game now plays a ton better than the last release and it helps the game see a lot of the potential that the previous release failed to achieve.
tThe updated control scheme isn’t without its drawback(s). as with any touch-oriented game, your biggest problem will be the constant issue of obscured vision. As big and beautiful as the Vita’s OLED screen is for a handheld device, problems arise when those with larger hands engage in touch-based games. Like it or not, this is a necessary evil for this type of experience. Even with this, the new control aspect is truly the way that the game was meant to be played. The touch interface is leaps and bounds better than either of the two previous control options, and by a large margin.
The rest of the game’s gameplay has remained entirely the same. There are still a variety of objects both harmful and helpful throughout the world including speed rails, bumpers, and a variety of enemies who will destroy your ship after repeated collisions. The power ups are also still lingering around, which will help you get the upper hand in each level.
You still have to accomplish the same goals as before: collect stars and shards to complete each level as well as individual challenges based on both scores and completion time for each level. If you truly want to complete the game you will have to master each and every level on each account, earning a gold medal ranking. It is also worth noting that the leaderboards and rankings present in the PSN release are in tact as well. You are constantly reminded of how you fare against both your friends and the rest of the world.
In the end, StarDrone Extreme is simply a more refined version of last year’s release, and thatis a good thing. It is amazing how the simple “change of scenery”, in terms of moving from a console game to a portable one, can help improve the StarDrone experience. That game is perfectly suited for a portable platform, offering simple and intuitive gameplay that promotes quick and frequent gameplay sessions. It is very easy to grab your Vita and complete a level or two while you are on the go, and that facts makes the experience more enjoyable in the long run.
The game still beckons those with the old-school mentality of setting and beating high scores as well as working to improve your performance on the same levels over and over again. It is just more enjoyable and convenient to do it this time around. It also works in the game’s favor that the asking prove of the new version is half of that of the original release. For $3.99, I have a hard time not recommending StarDrone Experience to those gamers looking for something they can pick and play in short spurts and for a long time. This is exactly what the game should have been the first time around, it is just a shame that it took a year and a new, portable platform for it realize its potential.
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