Who needs Geometry when you have spaceships?
Super Stardust HD, released on June 15, 2007 in North America, is one of many games in the twin-stick shooter genre that was more or less created by Geometry Wars. Stardust wasn’t the first twin-stick shooter on the PSN, but it’s easily the best. This game hits in all areas, from its gorgeous graphics and driving sci-fi soundtrack to it’s tight controls. When you add expanded game modes through downloadable add-ons and trophy support, this is one of the strongest titles the PSN has to offer.
The premise of the game, like most other games in the genre is simple: as you traverse five planets you must control your spaceship, destroy any asteroids and space creatures you encounter picking up point tokens along the way to build your score. As you stay alive, a score multiplier continually builds, which is the true key to boosting your score. Take a hit from an enemy destroys your ship, and more importantly, drops your multiplier back down to nothing. Shield tokens will occasionally appear for you to pick up which will allow your ship to take damage without destroying it. Learning the subtle strategies in the game will be what puts your name towards the top of the leaderboards, because like other games in the genre, Stardust‘s challenge doesn’t come from simply learning the gameplay, but from mastering it.
The controls make it easy to pick up and play. The left analog stick moves your spaceship around, while the right analog stick fires your weapon in whatever direction you are aiming. You have a boost attack which recharges after you use it, and bombs, which you have a limited supply of, that destroy everything in your general vicinity mapped to your trigger buttons. The L1 and R1 buttons cycle through your ships three weapons, one each for rock, gold and ice asteroids. That’s it. They are incredibly responsive, which is very necessary, because when the asteroid/enemy hordes start really raining down on you (and they will), you need to be able to make quite a few hairpin turns and subtle moves to keep your ship (and your score) going.
The graphics, much like the gameplay, are very simplistic. But man, are they pretty. As the name of the game implies, the best graphical experience will be achieved on an HD display. The explosions and effects seem to pop in HD in a way that doesn’t come through when you play the game on a standard display. The soundtrack is the game’s strongest trait, as the futuristic themes do well to immerse you in the frantic action going on in front of you. Just in case you aren’t a fan of the sci-fi sounds, Stardust has you covered, as you can use a custom soundtrack off of your PS3′s music playlist. Nothing beats blasting space rocks while Rage Against the Machine is pumping in the background.
The arcade game is more than enough to keep most gamers occupied for hours on end. For those who tire of the regular game, or for those who are just looking to expand their Stardust experience, you can get two downloadable track packs that have appeared since the game’s release. The first is a solo player pack that offers four new single player game modes: Endless, Survivor, Bomber, and Time Attack. Endless is probably the strongest of the new modes, as you face unbelievable enemy swarms doing your best to stay alive and build an amazing score. All of the modes are fun though, despite lacking the depth of arcade mode. The second add-on is a team pack with split screen co-op modes. Both packs also contain extra content in the form of remixed soundtracks and, in the team pack, a ship editor. Unfortunately the ship editor offers no strategic advantages, it’s purely there for aesthetic purposes. Stardust also has the distinction of being the first PS3 game to offer trophy support. The trophies range from being relatively easy (gain a bronze the first time you complete each planet), to pretty tough (acquire 15 bombs in Bomber? And it’s only a silver?).
The game is, of course, not without it’s flaws. It is pretty limited with only five planets to play. It would’ve been nice to see an extra planet or two with one of the game’s updates. For a game where the play sessions get longer and longer every time you play, the planet repetition gets a little old eventually. And while it is awesome that there are trophies in the game, some of them have to be acquired in game modes that you have to buy the downloadable add-ons to unlock. While the new modes are pretty cool, they are optional. I shouldn’t have to spend an extra $10 on the game to earn all the trophies in it. Fortunately, none of these issues take away from the core game.
Super Stardust HD is hands-down one of the best titles not only on the PSN, but for the PlayStation 3 overall. For those who don’t own a 360 and are therefore not able to play Geometry Wars, Stardust provides an experience that is not only on par, but better in many ways. It’s an amazing value at $9.99 USD that will keep fans of arcade shooters occupied for hours on end, and will make fans out of those not familiar with the genre. It’s simply a title that shouldn’t be missed by casual and hardcore player alike.
Simple interface, but not too much variety in game modes
|How does our scoring system work?|
Controls are incredibly tight, but very easy to use. No slowdown or frame rate issues to speak of
Original soundtrack and sound effects are fantastic; custom soundtrack is a nice addition to have
Arcade mode will keep you striving for your top score, but not much depth to speak of outside of it
At only $9.99 USD, there's no way this title should be missed by PS3 owners