Review: StarDrone Extreme
A little over a year ago, StarDrone released on the PlayStation Network. It came out around the same time as the PlayStation Move and was one of the few Network titles to make good use of Sony’s new motion controller. The game’s concept was a bit bizarre, but its gameplay was simple. Launch a drone into space, then attach it to different beacons in order to move it about, lighting up stars or collecting shards to complete objectives. It was a new twist on a somewhat dated grapple mechanic, and when coupled with the precision of the Move, it was a bunch of fun to play. StarDrone Extreme is Beatshapers’s mobile version of the game. Again, they’re making use of Sony’s newest hip device, the PlayStation Vita. Unfortunately, this voyage isn’t as successful as the last.
Allow me a couple of lines to describe what StarDrone actually is. If you didn’t read my review from last year, or don’t feel like doing so now, I’ll keep it simple: In StarDrone, you inadvertently control a drone by grappling it to beacons. The drone stays in constant motion and has a shield that acts as a health meter, protecting it from baddies and spikes. Your objective changes with each level, from lighting up stars on the map to collecting shards to defeating enemies. Sometimes the point of a level is to simply make it to the goal alive. Levels take anywhere from 15 seconds to 5 minutes, and there are a total of 60 spacely levels in the game. The game keeps track of the score and medals you’ve earned (gold, silver, or bronze) on each level. The global leaderboards include players from the PS3 version of StarDrone. To call StarDrone Extreme a sequel would be inaccurate. The game is actually a mobile StarDrone with touch controls and a few new levels. Oh, and cross-platform support.
StarDrone Extreme offers a slightly different experience from the original game. Since SDE is a Vita game, its entire control scheme (save for the right trigger, which is used to scan the map) is mapped to either the front or rear touch screens. Instead of pointing and pressing the trigger with the Move, you touch and hold nearby beacons to attach to them. There are three different control schemes to choose from. The default (and most effective, in my opinion) is the front touch screen. The first rear pad option allows you to tap beacons while the second option automatically attaches the drone to the closest beacon. The front option works the best likely because it’s most natural to physically touch what you see. The reason it doesn’t work too well is the obvious: Your fingers get in the way of what you’re looking at. I played about 30 levels with the touch controls before loading my save file from the original StarDrone. I’m new to cloud saving/loadingfunctionality, and I was looking forward to what my 3G #GAMECHANGER could do, so I booted up StarDrone on my PS3, installed the new patch for it, and headed to the options menu. In less than 5 minutes I had saved my StarDrone data to the cloud and loaded it into StarDrone Extreme on my Vita. The whole process was quick and intuitive. It even switched my game speed from 5 (what I had been playing on with the Vita) to 10 (what I had been playing on with the PS Move). The idea is that you can put down your DualShock and pick up where you left off on your Vita, or vice versa. I guess that works if you haven’t played much or any of the original game. I had already completed all of the content of the original, so loading up my save file on the Vita worked as a massive unlocking.
I can say with surety that StarDrone plays much better with the PlayStation Move. Maybe it’s the smaller screen coupled with intrusive touch controls, but I was disappointed with the how the game plays on the Vita. Also, when you start playing at high speeds, the framerate stutters, putting a dampener on what should be a fluid, exciting experience. Another dampener of sorts is whole Level Skipper DLC business. In short, every time you fail a level, you’re prompted to either retry it or skip it. Pressing the Skip button transports you to the PlayStation Store, where you may purchase “StarDrone Extreme SKIP (Add-on Content)” for $0.99. If you do so, you gain the ability to skip levels forever. At first I wasn’t happy about the microtransaction, but in time I realized that my only problem with it is that it’s asking you to pay to not play the game. I would certainly never spend money on something like that, but I can’t fault Beatshapers for having it be a part of their game (a game, it should be noted, that costs only $3.99 to purchase).
I thought – and still think – that StarDrone is a good game. If you haven’t played it in any way, shape, or form, you can buy the PS3 version for $7.99 (or £3.19 on the EU store). I would recommend this version, especially if you have a PlayStation Move. If you already own StarDrone and/or are looking for a new way to play, $3.99 isn’t much to ask for a portable version. It’s a price point that makes me feel comfortable recommending it to a friend who has never played the original. The extra content amounts to seven new levels, each of which does something interesting and new. I spent a little over an hour playing it, even after loading my previous save file. The bulk of the time was spent replaying levels in order to boost my score to an acceptable level. In that regard, then, the game still succeeds. I should mention that the LiveArea for SDE is pretty nifty. It shows your total score, a dispersion of your medals, and helpful hints like “playing on Hard Mode nets you more points.” On paper, touch controls are a great idea for StarDrone. In practice, I can’t say it goes off without a hitch.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- StarDrone is still a good game, new levels are fun
- Level length lends itself to pickup and play sessions
- $3.99 price point is perfect for a rerelease of an old game
What I Dislike:
- Touch controls take some getting used to
- Framerate dropping and slight screen tearing