Have you ever wondered what a game would be like if it combined pinball with Geometry Wars, Angry Birds and added in some space-like physics (i.e. constant inertia)? Well wonder no more, gamers! That’s precisely what playing StarDrone Extreme on the Vita is like, and it’s a better combination than you might think.
StarDrone doesn’t have a story or characters to speak of, instead focusing purely on the arcade aesthetics that make the game more appealing. Controls are done entirely with the touch screen (or rear touch pad, should you so desire). Each level begins with players aiming their drone for launch. From there, the drone is in constant motion. Your drone will be careening away into the depths of space unless it runs into something or you anchor it to a gravity point, done by tapping the point. These gravity points are the key to changing direction, and often from running the drone into danger.
The object of each level varies. Typically you want to either light up all the empty stars on the map, collect all the gems on the map and bring them to an end point, or simply reach the giant GOAL ring at the end of a stage. Players are tasked with collecting points along the way, usually earned by destroying enemies, collecting power-ups or following a certain line for so long, and scores are multiplied by how large you can rack up your combo, done by racking up a large quantity of points in different ways in a short timeframe. Bonuses are also awarded for completing a level quickly.
There are a lot of complexity in terms of what each level contains. Walls that speed your drone in a set direction, boost geysers, crystals to break for points, all sorts of enemies and other harmful pieces of the environment like spiked walls and bombs. The visuals are amazing, even if the gameplay itself might get a bit repetitive.
While earlier levels start off as simply as using a single turn to aim your drone towards a goal, later levels can become increasingly massive and complex, creating impressive displays of galactic acrobatics and spiraling all around carefully designed levels. This is appropriately accompanied by eerie and energetic techno music that all blends together very well.
Each level is incredibly satisfying. I found myself, who was playing before I had to head to a doctors appointment, stretching for time to play just one more level. The simple concept mixed with the high-end visual and audible experience becomes incredibly addictive, and you won’t want to put the game down.
There are around 60 levels on the game, and weighing in at a download price of only $3.99 means you get a ton of value for your money.
That being said, the physics and the constant inertia of your drone DO get in the way sometimes. Remember that earlier level I mentioned, where all you have to do is turn once around a corner in order to reach a goal ring? Well that one turn has to be precise, which means if your aim is a fraction of an angle off from straight forward, you’ll be hopelessly spiraling into the depths of dark space and have to start over.
What’s borderline insulting is the level skipper DLC that’s relentlessly advertised with the game. Sure, the game itself is only four bucks, and the level skipper DLC is $.99, but the fact that it told me I should buy it once when I booted up the game, again on the main menu, and again when I failed the aforementioned level a few times was just irritating. You can tweak the game’s difficulty and speed you play at, but those will either lower your speed or simply make damage less efficient, and doesn’t really help if you can’t quite get a handle on aiming your drone when attached to a gravity point.
The game almost demands the sort of mentality accompanied by playing a smartphone game. As addictive as StarDrone is, you’ll get tired of its repetitiveness after a while. It’s not the kind of game you can sit down and play for long hauls. It’s more the kind of game that you’d play here and there to kill time while on a bus or in a waiting room.
StarDrone Extreme is a fun game that I definitely recommend anyone with a Vita check out. Aside from a few missteps, you’ve got a sensory appealing game that is one of the few that interacts between the Vita and PS3 versions in terms of leaderboards and your own level progress. Chances are you spent more than four bucks on lunch that one day last week, and that only lasted you, at most, an hour. StarDrone is four bucks and will last you much longer than that. With a comparison like that, your interest in this game, no matter how big or small, should be a no-brainer.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided to us for review purposes.
StarDrone Extreme is a great package for only four bucks. The mechanics of the game get in the way of the fun here and there, but the overall game is terribly addictive and an amazing experience.