PS Vita Review – StarDrone Extreme

StarDrone Extreme is yet another PlayStation 3/PSN title to get a slight makeover for the PlayStation Vita, with included touch controls to take advantage of the handheld’s unique feature set. But is this version of StarDrone, extreme-ly pleasing?

Extremely annoying, maybe. At least after the 10th stage or so. At that point, any time you die, the game asks you if you want to skip the level. Doesn’t seem like a bad thing at first. After my fourth or fifth time of the game asking me, I had about enough of the level I was stuck on, so I clicked “yes”. Rather than skipping the stage, you’re brought to the PlayStation Store to purchase a $0.99 “skip level add-on”. Once purchased, you can skip an unlimited number of levels. (note: my original review stated you had to purchase a level skip add-on each time—I was wrong)

The game is frustrating, too. So, skipping is tempting. I’m not sure if that was a goal of the devs, but I don’t like it. It’s not frustrating because it’s particularly difficult, and the gameplay is actually pretty fun. It’s frustrating because all it takes is to be off by a few degrees of an angle to lose.

StarDrone Extreme starts you off at the beginning of each stage with a ship inside a pod. Touch on the screen to aim where you want to fire off the ship, and then it’s on cruise control the rest of the time. The only way you have to control where the ship goes, is by touching and holding onto beacons. The ship grabs these beacons like a tractor beam, circling the beacon like an orbit. Let go of the touchscreen, and the ship sails off in the direction you last left it. From there it can bank off walls or run through boosters to propel quickly.

The goal is to make your way through obstacles, paths and puzzles to pick up stars and gems that you fit together to make a larger star. Along the way, there are more and more beacons, plus spikes, explosive orbs, and other things that get in your way. Collect all stars or make your way to the end of the stage as fast as possible without dying—that’s the name of the game. It’s simple, it’s fun, but there really isn’t much to it outside of what I just outlined above.

There’s little variety, and worse, there’s little room for error. As you spin around these beacons, timing your release correctly is imperative to success. But the problem here, is that your thumb or finger is blocking the view of the direction you want to send the ship in, making it difficult to judge your release. And this is where the frustration comes from, because if you’re off by even the tiniest bit in later stages, you will smash into spikes or explosives orbs, and die. Which, I guess, is what the developers want so they can sell you level skip add-ons. You can, however, swap to rear touch-panel controls, which make things easier because there are no fingers blocking the view.

If you’ve played the PlayStation Move version (which is easier to control and doesn’t have fingers getting in the way of the screen) on the PS3, then leave this one be. It’s the same 60 levels, plus a few Vita exclusive levels added for good measure. But it’s not enough for warrant a second purchase. It doesn’t take much advantage of the Vita’s screen; colors are dull, and nothing really pops. Same goes for the sound; it’s bland, effects are screechy, and the music sounds like it was created by an aspiring electronica musician’s younger sibling who just started in an attempt to be more like their big bro.

The saving grace is that the StarDrone Extreme is indeed fun, and that it only costs $3.99. Just don’t skip a level, or that cost goes up, and you end up paying more to play less of the game.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Gameplay is simple and fun.

– But lacks variety and can get frustrating.

– Pay $0.99 to skip a level? Are you kidding me?

5 out of 10