StarDrone – The PS3 Attitude Review
Released a few weeks ago on the PlayStation Network, StarDrone was developed by Beatshapers, a Ukrainian studio based in Kiev. Although this is their first full game release, the team are no strangers to the PSN, having released a number of innovative and original PlayStation minis titles on the PlayStation Store; but how does their latest title fair?
StarDrone takes aspects of several other games to create a relatively unique experience, and as such, it is quite difficult to describe to someone who’s never heard of it, but we’ll do our best. We’ll say this though; if you can work out what the hell is going on in the below screenshots without seeing the game in motion, then you’re better people than us!
From the screenshots, you might be thinking it’s a top-down shooter, or maybe a pinball game? Neither of these is exactly correct, although the second guess is a lot closer to the feel of the game. You see that tiny ship in the middle of both screens? That’s you, and in each level you are tasked with a certain objective, such as collecting all the stars or reaching the goal area.
So far so good, but it’s StarDrone’s control scheme that makes it difficult to describe. Dotted around each level are beacons which you can latch onto with a kind of futuristic tether, and this is how you move around levels. Your ship is constantly moving, so if you stay latched onto a beacon, you will simply spin around it, until you let go and fly off in the direction you were facing when you let go.
You will continue to fly in this same direction until you either latch onto another beacon, fly over a speed boost, or hit an obstacle. Some players may be put off by the fact that you are not actually in control of your actual ship, but we found it to be a relatively innovative form of movement, and for the most part it works well.
StarDrone is fully playable with both the PlayStation Move motion controller and the standard DualShock 3, and both control schemes work well enough. The consensus seems to be that the DualShock layout is easier to control, but whichever one you start with will probably end up being your preferred controller for the game.
Right, now we’ve got the movement sorted, we can get into what you actually do in the game! We’ve mentioned the stars which are littered around each level, but there are also enemies in the form of mines, spikes, rockets, and weird Pac-Man shaped creatures called creepers. Normally, all of these are deadly, but there are also several items you can use to help you out.
Shield pickups will replenish your health, and power-ups will give you (surprise, surprise) extra powers to help you traverse each level: the magnet power-up attracts stars towards you, invisibility makes it impossible for enemies to spot you, and berserk turns you into a killing machine. You’ll need to make the most of these power-ups, as levels can get very hectic.
Your high scores and completion times are recorded for each level, with a bronze, silver or gold medal being awarded for fast times. Even bronze medals can be pretty difficult, so completionists will have their work cut out. There are also online leaderboards for each player’s overall score, and so what with collecting medals and chasing high scores, there’s lots of replay value to be found.
Everything about the game has a charming retro feel to it, from the old school style menus, to the simple but effective visuals. Animations are pretty good, especially explosions when you accidently fly into a mine or a spiked wall (although, after your fifteenth death in a row, if you’re anything like us then you’ll probably be too annoyed to appreciate the game’s aesthetics!).
The sound design is one of the strongest aspects of the game, with nice effects throughout. There’s also some decent music here that fits the style of the game well, but ultimately gets a little tired after a while. Unfortunately, custom soundtracks are not supported, which is a shame because after an hour or two the game cries out for implementation of this feature.
Overall, despite its obvious replay value, at £6.29, StarDrone is slightly difficult to recommend. However, until 5th April, PlayStation Plus subscribers can take advantage of a 50% price cut, and grab it for a bargain £3.15. We’d be lying if we said it was the best game on the Store, but it’s definitely worth a punt at that price, because if you give it a chance you’ll find a decent challenge here.