|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Housemarque||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
If you haven't played Super Stardust HD (SS HD) for the PS3, you're missing out on one of the very best downloadable titles available for the system. Due to that game's success, developer Housemarque and publisher Sony Computer Entertainment have decided to bring the title to the PSP. Though it's similar and even better than the PSP release of Everyday Shooter, the game is decidedly weaker than its console outing due to the PSP's hardware limitations. Still, it's a great game to have on your MemoryStick.
Super Stardust Portable (SS Portable) is a top-down shooter that has players blasting through waves of various asteroids, explosive devices, and alien ships on their way to racking up serious high scores. Your little ship shuttles around a revolving set of space above one of five planets. It's your job to decimate the alien and asteroid threat with three distinct cannons, screen-clearing bombs, a hyper-drive bull-rush, and evasive skills.
Your cannons become more powerful as you collect weapon drops and include a Rock Crusher (effective against rocky asteroids and most enemies), a Gold Melter ray (good for gold asteroids and specific enemies), and an Ice Splitter (which makes quick work of icy chunks of space debris). Also, the point capsules released by asteroids and enemies become increasingly more valuable the longer you live. The key to getting high scores is to stay alive long enough to build up your point multiplier. The gameplay is very straightforward, but it is also utterly addictive and satisfyingly challenging.
SS Portable features five increasingly challenging planets for you to master. There are also three different levels of difficulty, though only the lower two are initially available. As you advance through four phases for each planet, you will be confronted with a final alien boss (bosses) in the fifth phase. The game will automatically save your progress, unlocking the new worlds as you go and saving your hard-earned high scores. Outside of the main Arcade mode, players can also try to set high scores on individual planets in Planet mode or drop cannons and extra lives in Impact mode. That's right: Impact mode does away with the conventional shooter aspect of the title and tests your evasion, bombing, and ramming skills.
Outside of conquering all five planets on the three difficulty settings, the real goal of the game is to get outrageously high scores. The best way to do this is to stay alive; your points will grow exponentially the longer you live. Getting through Normal mode will automatically loop you into Hard and keep your point tally rolling. Because high scores are so central to the game, the devs have included leaderboard support through a Super Stardust server. This feature goes a long way toward extending replayability and it makes the game that much more satisfying. The leaderboard is divided up into best planet scores, by difficulty, and by mode (Arcade or Impact). Unfortunately, connecting to the server is a real chore. Frequently, connection errors occur and you won't be able to upload your scores. Moreover, there is a glitch present that will actually freeze your PSP and power it down. This is a pervasive problem that occurred seven out of fifteen attempts. A patch needs to be released to address this issue.