|System: PS Vita|
|Release: February 15, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Mild Fantasy Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Super Stardust Delta is taking the addictive twin-stick space shooter—downloadable for the PS3 and PSP back in 2007 and 2008, respectively—and setting it up as a launch title for the forthcoming PS Vita. With the unsuccessful controls on the PSP (being limited to a single analog stick), fans of the series will be pleased with the updated dual-stick control scheme available on the Vita. But developer Housemarque seems to be taking it a step further, also utilizing other functions such as the front touchscreen, rear touchpad, and the Sixaxis motion sensing. Most of the content has remained intact from the game's predecessors, but some features have been stripped away—at least in the E3 demo.
The concept of the game is the same as in the past: You'll pilot your diminutive spacecraft around a planet, destroying asteroids and enemies that threaten its atmosphere. There will be five planets in total, each with five waves of enemies to tackle. Apart from the main campaign, there are a few extra familiar modes included, such as Impact Mode, Endless Mode, and Bomber Mode. There will also be a handful of minigames, all of which showcase the different control schemes of the portable. One such minigame has you squashing asteroids using both the front touchscreen and back touchpad.
So far, two different ship types have been revealed. The Gold Melter has a fire-based primary weapon, which spews out flames that arc around like whip. The other, the Ice Splitter, launches rapid-fire ice projectiles. A new feature for the Vita is the ability to adjust the range and concentration of the primary weapon using the front touchscreen. Using the Gold Melter as an example, at one end of the slider the flames will reach much farther away but do less damage, while conversely, with the slider at the opposite end, the fire is shorter but more potent. Each type is also equipped with a secondary weapon that has a bigger impact, with the Gold Melter sporting a black hole bomb and the Ice Splitter launching a flurry of swarm missiles that can seek out enemies. These weapons are discharged using the rear touchpad; pressing it brings up a targeting reticle which you position onscreen and releasing it fires the weapon.
Another new control feature is the use of the accelerometer and gyroscope. By tilting the Vita, you are able to see around the planet and locate enemies more easily, giving you a chance to strategize your next move.
Once you breeze past the easy levels, the enemies and asteroids will appear faster and in greater numbers. Should you become overwhelmed, there's one more ace in your hand. After collecting enough tokens, you can give the handheld a quick shake and detonate a smart bomb which destroys everything presently on the screen—except yourself, of course. While I applaud Housemarque for taking advantage of many of the system's new control features, I am wary about their effectiveness. Being such a frenetically paced game, having to worry about the placing bombs via the rear touchscreen and adjusting the primary weapon strength from the front may distract you enough to get you killed. The official trailer even warns, "Blink and you're dead!"
Although the game contains the same quantity of levels as previous iterations, there are a couple omissions that either weren't ready for E3 or just didn't make the cut. First is the loss of one of the three ship types, as the Rock Crusher was nowhere to be found. Second, and most vital, is the understanding that this will only be a single-player affair. With a fun (albeit imperfect) co-op from the console version, and Sony touting the cross-platform and networking capabilities at their press conference, games such as Super Stardust Delta should not be slapped with a one-player limitation. The saving grace, however, is that it looks like an online leaderboard will be present, giving gamers the drive to work their scores toward a higher rank.
The PS3 version of Super Stardust, although gorgeous, will never win an award for graphical breakthroughs. The visuals are expected to look as good, if not better, on the Vita, with bold color choices from enemies, weapons, and other phenomenon in the cosmos backdrop. The many particle effects only add to the chaos onscreen, but so far the frame rate seems to be holding up.
Super Stardust HD and Portable received high marks for sound and music, which will inevitably follow suit for the Vita version. You'll probably want to keep those earbuds plugged in while playing this one.
Super Stardust Delta is likely to receive a fair chunk of downloads when it launches alongside the Vita. Its quick jolts of intense gameplay are perfect for those bus rides. Some of the control schemes may feel gimmicky, but the dual-stick format is a great improvement over the PSP control scheme. If the price point stays consistent with the HD version at $7.99, this may be the best bang for your buck to get a taste of all the Vita has to offer.
Date: January 16, 2012