Review: StarDrone Extreme
This game was reviewed on PlayStation Vita
Every once in awhile, gamers just need to take a break from titles sporting massive storylines and complex, mind-boggling plot twists. Don’t get me wrong, games featuring these kinds of tales are awesome, but sometimes we just need something to flat out play. So today I present you a great choice for just kicking back and gaming: StarDrone Extreme for the PlayStation Vita! What makes this downloadable title a good casual romp? Well, put on your space suit and I’ll show you.
As you might have guessed by now, StarDrone Extreme has exactly zero plot, and instead focuses on pure gameplay – which it delivers in strides. Players take control of a small satellite-like drone from a 2D top-down perspective, and are tasked with completing certain objectives within each level. These goals usually include lighting up stars littered around the course, collecting gem shards to complete a larger shape, or simply getting from point A to point B without exploding or flying off the map.
To complete these objectives, players need to utilize a few helpful tools around the environment, since their drone has no thrusters and can only travel by inertia. Starting each round, the drone is placed within a canon and must be shot out. Simply touch and hold the screen in the direction you wish to fire, and then flick your finger to launch. From here, the device will continue to travel along that set path, until either bouncing off of something or being redirected by beacons.
Beacons are objects placed in specific positions around the level, and can be activated by touching them. Once operational, they will pull your drone into their orbit. Upon letting go, your drone will fly off in a new direction. Thankfully, you need not hold your finger directly on top of the beacon the entire time; simply touching it and keeping your finger generally near it will keep you circling the nearest device. This system saves a lot of grief for players, as attempting to hold your finger on a specific spot at higher speeds would be annoyingly difficult.
Now would be a good time to mention controls options, of which there are three: Front, which uses the front touch screen; Rear 1, which makes use of the rear touch pad; and Rear 2, which is similar to Rear 1 except that the pad acts as a single button. It is highly recommended that you avoid Rear 2, as it locks the drone to the beacon nearest to it regardless of where you actually press, making closer-proximity levels near impossible. With Front and Rear 1, players have the option to move their fingers closer to certain beacons, ensuring they’re locking onto the right object, making them the ones to choose from based on your preferences.
A few other directional assists can be found around a map, namely grind rails and accelerator pads. The former of the two will speed up and direct the drone around its curves if the device makes contact with the rail at the appropriate angle, and the latter will launch the drone in a single direction at a high speed if it is flown over. Knowing when to use these set pieces is crucial to navigating the area quickly, effectively, and safely.
Not everything is as simple as navigating amongst the stars though, as space is a dangerous place. Littered around the courses are several hazards designed to destroy your drone, including ice blocks, spike walls, mines, and a few vicious enemies. While spikes need to be outright avoided, players have an option for dealing with the rest: Comet Rush. As you light up stars around the level, your speed meter increases bit by bit, raising the drone’s velocity. Once completely filled, the device enters Comet Rush mode, where it reaches its top speed and grows powerful spikes. This enables the player to smash through most solid objects and enemies in his or her path, once again making offense the best defense.
One great thing about StarDrone Extreme’s gameplay is its flexibility, as any gamer (young or old, casual or hardcore) will find play that’s just right for them. Each level is absent of any time limit, meaning you can take your dear sweet time if you feel like it; however, if you complete the level quickly and stylishly enough, you’ll be awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal, for those looking for a challenge.
Options for difficulty and speed also let the gamer tailor their experience. If players are finding the title to be a little too easy, they can switch the difficulty up to hard, which causes enemies and obstacles to do extra damage to the drone. If that’s not enough (or you just want a more fast-paced challenge) the game’s speed may be adjusted to make it faster or slower. By mixing-and-matching these two choices, gamers can personalize gameplay to reflect their skill level – making StarDrone Extreme a one-size-fits-all game.
Overall, in terms of gameplay, StarDrone Extreme is a fantastic title. Interesting core mechanics are augmented by flexible controls/difficulty, a wide set of challenges, objectives, and hazards that test the player without straight out punishing them. All this creates a game that is incredibly fun, and will keep gamers entertained – whether it’s for a few minutes on the bus or a couple hours waiting for a delayed flight.
On top of this stellar play, we have equally impressive graphics. StarDrone Extreme is presented in a flashy, yet minimalist, sort of way. Level designs are fairly simple: flat areas, lines with bumpers and walls usually making different shapes, littered with all the friendly/hostile set pieces, with a start background filling in the black space. What makes it stand out however, is all the colour and flashing lights. Vibrant purples and yellows of friendly devices and walls are contrast to the dark reds and blacks of hurtful objects. Top it off with a high frame rate that never lags, and no visual tearing or texture pop; what you have left is just a splendid visual journey that you’ll love from start to finish.
The only downfall to StarDrone Extreme is its soundtrack, which comes across as annoying and lazy. From the menus to gameplay, players will hear repetitive loops of electronic drum-and-bass riffs that are lacking both depth and creativity – sometimes going as far as repeating the same bar of music over and over without variation. Gamers are going to tire of the title’s score within just minutes, so you’ll want to load up your own collection of songs to your Vita ahead of time (I personally recommend the works of Klaypex and Adventure Club, they work fantastic with the game).
When you’ve finally returned from amongst the stars, you’ll see that StarDrone Extreme is a truly awesome break from story-driven gaming, focusing solely on great gameplay instead. Whether you’re a competitive hardcore gamer who needs to race for the highest score, or a casual gamer just looking for some entertainment, this is one game that you’re sure to enjoy. Young or old, skilled or not, you’re sure to enjoy it; so load up your drone, aim carefully, and get launching!
Final Score: 4.75 out of 5.0 and a gold-plated drone.
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