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PS3 Fanboy review: Super Stardust HD

There have been many dual-analog space shooters in the past. Geometry Wars popularized the genre on Xbox, and Sony attempted a similar effort with Blast Factor. What makes the newly released Super Stardust HD so much better than its genre predecessors? It's easy to see, literally. Super Stardust HD looks eons better than any of its competitors. But, not only does it feature good looks ... it features easy-to-understand gameplay and a great deal of subtle complexity that will appeal to casual and hardcore gamers alike.

The basic concept of the game is simple. You control a spaceship with an infinite supply of destructive capabilities. The left analog stick controls movement of the ship, while the right analog stick controls the direction of your weapon. Using swift maneuvering and careful aim, players will have to destroy a seemingly endless onslaught of meteors and alien space craft.

Meteors will fall towards a planet, and players will have to traverse the globe, trying to defend the planet. Each Armageddon-sized rock will splinter into smaller pieces of debris in a beautiful and chaotic spectacle. As players progress through the various stages, an even greater amount of objects will fall from the sky, providing players will a daunting challenge that borders on the insurmountable. Thankfully, players have a number of tools at their disposal.

What makes Super Stardust HD so special is its different weapon types. There's three different beams, each with their own rate of fire, and range. Each beam can destroy a different kind of meteor, whether it be made of rock, ice or gold. (We're personally enamored with the way the Gold Melter weapon looks. It's a stunning graphical display.) Each beam can be toggled with a simple press of the L1 or R1 shoulder buttons.

There's also a terrifyingly helpful boost that can be triggered with the L2 button. This boost will rocket your ship to the other side of the globe. As if in water, the boost can displace various obstacles in your way, but it happens so suddenly that players must use quick reflexes to ensure their safety upon reaching their destination. Finally, the bomb: players can use R2 to wipe out every lethal obstacle on screen at once. It's incredibly helpful, if only to give the player an extra second or two of breathing room.

The complexity added by the various rock types and weapons are welcomed in a genre that seemingly was running out of ideas. In addition, the boost mechanic creates an appreciable feel of tension, due to the overly chaotic nature of the game. Other aspects of the game also feature a surprising amount of depth. For example, bombs can be harvested from special ships. The green sections must be hit repeatedly in order for a bomb to be revealed. Careful bomb usage can make or break a successful run, making the destruction of these cargo ships a priority. Power-up items that appear on the playing field will mutate over time, meaning players will have to carefully collect them as quickly as possible. Rare 1UPs will mutate into a less helpful shield power-up. Conversely, weapon upgrades can fluctuate, meaning careful players will wait for the power-ups to change into a more desirable (or appropriate) selection. Weapons can continuously be upgraded, until they reach 200% power. The increase in power is noticeable, and crucial to become a truly masterful player.

Enemies feature an eclectic mix of behaviors that make the game even more interesting. Rarely are enemies simple fodder to shoot at. Some enemies will fire bullets, others will chase you furiously, while others will avoid your ship's fire. Bosses are a fun addition, ending each level on a truly intense note.

Not only is Super Stardust HD a beautiful game, it features a great depth to its gameplay. With great music, fantastic presentation, online leaderboards, and fun, accessible gameplay, it's hard to think that this game can only cost $8. There are a few gripes to note: firstly, the co-op multiplayer is very limited, due to its frustrating camera. Instead of offering online or split-screen play, co-op mode limits the camera to the average of the two players. This forces players to communicate which direction they'd like to go. Unfortunately, in a game this chaotic, that becomes a rather difficult ordeal.

At only $8, Super Stardust HD is an easily recommended purchase. More than Calling All Cars, or any other title on the PlayStation Store to date, this is the killer-app that defines the true potential of the PlayStation Store.

PS3 Fanboy Score: 8.5

Second Opinion: Jem
Affectionately referred to as "the game Blast Factor wants to be when it grows up," Super Stardust HD balances a rich feature list with a pick-up-and-play simplicity. While on the surface it appears to be another fast-paced dual analogue shooter, Stardust has hidden depths which require the player to use tactics and timing in order to get the greatest possible score. Graphically stunning and inescapably addictive, this is the single must-buy game on the PSN right now. For the price, you simply can't go wrong.

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Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. A simple outstanding title. What it does, it does it perfectly. Addictive more so than any other title so far on the ps3. Only let down is lack of online co-op.

Posted at 3:01AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by RoarrrUK

2. This game is awesome.

Posted at 4:20AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by Joey_Numbers

3. =( Unfortunately, I really really really suck at these type of games. )=
Don't get me wrong, it looks like fantastic fun, but for me (being handicapped with humanlike-reflexes) it just doesn't last very long. =/ ...maybe if there was a "Sissy-Mode" for people like me, then it would be as popular as, erm, let's say, erm... salad?.... =/ ...see? I TOLD YOU I need a mode like that! =D

Posted at 5:35AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by Consolcwby

4. I have to say that this game is seriously good fun to play with a real JustOne-More-go addictivness about it. The on-line score rank system just shows how cr@p you actually are but it's the comparison with your buddies that adds spades.

Graphically, It really shines, The screen really gets very very busy and I haven't noticed any slowdown at all. Saying that, I'm playing on a 720p/1080i screen so what it must look like on a 1080p panel i can only imagine.

well worth a fiver, and yes, i prefer this to Calling all cars which would of been so much better if they hadn't locked in on the one camera direction.... what a disasterous decision that was !!!

Posted at 8:29AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by Neil

5. The top scores are in the 200,000,000+ point range now.. im happy with my 7,000,000 pb thought :)

About 20k people have downloaded the game so far.

Posted at 9:21AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by humpty

6. I'm really loving this game. I've been driving my girlfriend crazy by playing it non-stop. It's very addictive and every time I die I instantly just want to try again.

Since my girlfriend was getting so annoyed by it, I had her give it a try and now she's addicted too. Pretty funny.

Posted at 9:27AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by Travis

7. I know the controls in blast factor are similar but for some reason I had a harder time playing blast factor than this game and enjoyed playing Stardust a lot more! This is a really great PSN game to get!

Posted at 10:04AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by Tanya

8. You can also use the boost button to blast your way through large asteroids. Yes, you can break them apart by flying through them!

Posted at 10:28AM on Jul 2nd 2007 by Galley

9. I like this game a lot too, i've got flow and calling all cars (enjoy them both) but this game is the most fun out of the three. The best way to play is save those bombs until phase 3 on the first planet because you'll need them for those last three phases. Also, if you have made it to the second planet, at the first phase there is a special bonus you can get. You have to destroy one of the asteroids but sooner or later you will see numbers in the red circles indicating a chain of asteroids that will fall. If you can hit all the asteroids before the next one hits and you eventually get it to count down to 1 (the last asteroid) and blow it up then you get a huge points bonus and sometimes weapons bonuses too.

Regardless, if you like space arcade shooters buy this one!

Posted at 12:34PM on Jul 2nd 2007 by dalejrfanfreak

10. This game is incredible and has been a lot of fun playing by myself and co-op. But maybe I just suck at this game, but I can't seem to get past phase 4 of the first level, I've gotten a score of almost 2 million, but still can't get past it. I'm a little puzzled why they don't have a continue game option when you run out of lives. It's frustrating me to get to what I think is very close to the end and then to lose my last life and have to start over at the very beginning.

Posted at 7:16PM on Jul 2nd 2007 by thecapps

11. @ thecapps
thats arcade gaming for you mate....try the old school...dont mention ghost and goblins....grrrrr!

Posted at 8:01PM on Jul 2nd 2007 by seedaripper1973

12. I don't know, I am in the credits of flOw!!!
And it's the number one selling PSN game to date!

Posted at 9:19PM on Jul 5th 2007 by amish.gramish

13. One word - Tekken - another couple of words - the best game on PSN right now. If you had not used that last sentence for this game I would have had nothing to say. We had a party and had about 20 people standing around watching some of us play Tekken, it was that entertaining just watching it. I cannot imagine this game could be that fun to watch or play.

Posted at 10:52PM on Jul 5th 2007 by @it

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