So you have bought yourself a shiny new PlayStation Vita and you’ve picked up the must-have retail titles such as UMvC3 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Now you are headed to the PlayStation store to find out what, if any, PSN titles you should consider picking up. Let me help streamline this process for you and just come out and say it: you MUST pick up Super Stardust Delta (SSD) and its associated DLC the Blast Pack. There is simply no better title available digitally for the PlayStation Vita.
The concept of the SSD is about as simple as they come: blow up everything around you while you keep from getting blown up yourself. It is as simple as that! The game has its roots firmly planted in classic arcade-style gameplay where your goal is to earn a spot at the top of the score leaderboards and hold it for as long as possible; only this time around the concept is presented as a modern twin-stick shooter. As you take control of your spaceship, it is up to you to fend off wave after wave of both volatile enemies and dangerous asteroids until either your score reigns supreme or you lose all of your lives. There is a catch though which comes in the form of elemental alignment; in this case, it is fire versus ice.
If you played the original PSN release of the first game, you should feel right at home with SSD. Everything looks and plays exactly the same. There have just been a few minor adjustments to adapt the game to the PlayStation Vita system. Your ship now only has 2 modes of fire, fire and ice, depicted by the colors red and blue. A majority of your enemies and all of the asteroids fall into one of these two categories; you will need to manage switching between the two in order to use the appropriate firing-mode on the respective targets. Don’t worry if you aren’t quick on the switch though as all modes of fire damage all enemies, but fire does particularly effective damage against red enemies and ice to blue enemies.
The game plays out on a spherical surface in space. This presents a unique element of navigating the environment in a spherical environment. You will have to learn to manage the crowded gameplay area by shifting yourself around the various sides of the sphere and avoiding deadly contact with enemies and rocks. This becomes especially challenging when power-ups are dropped by glowing meteorites and bonus drops; there isn’t always a clear path to your treasure but the urgency to get them before they disappear is ever-present. The same thing could be said for the stardust that drops when enemies and meteors are destroyed; collecting stardust is equally important because filling up the stardust meter will lead to the spawning of more power-ups on the screen.
There are a variety of power-ups that become available including point bonuses, shields for your ship, refills to your boost meter (which is as important for charging through enemies as it is away from them), and the ever-so-important weapon enhancement which will power up your guns. Powering up your weapons is especially important because the longer that you last, the bigger and badder the enemies will become. Failure to power up both the fire and ice weapons of your ship will leave you struggling to face even the simplest enemies on later levels.
In addition to your standard guns, you will also collect a couple of “special weapons”. As with most other games of this genre, you start off the game with a couple of these in your inventory and they are given out over time as you reach certain score benchmarks and take out particular enemies. There are three weapons this time around and each one makes use of the special abilities of the Vita system. First off, touching the front touchscreen will launch a missile barrage that will seek out enemies on the screen. Touching the back touch-panel will spawn a blackhole that consumes a majority of the enemies on the playing field. Last, but not least, is an EMP bomb which causes enemies in your vicinity to implode; this is triggered by shaking the Vita system. Each one is useful in their own right, depending on your current situation and learning when and how to use them can mean the difference between life and death.
You will get your bearings through the games main Arcade and Planets Modes; these are the core experiences that challenge you to play through a series of 5 increasingly difficult planets. Each one features four different phases which challenging you to withstand an onslaught of enemies culminating in a fifth phase which is a massive boss battle. Each stage brings additional enemy types which get tougher and faster as time goes by. They are all enjoyable and are so brief and action packed that they beg to be replayed time and time again.
At this point, SSD probably sounds like an incredibly simple game and, honestly, it really is. What really makes this version stand out though is the variety of gameplay modes offered to players throughout the experience. As your progress through the main arcade and Planet mode you will unlock additional gameplay modes to be enjoyed. Each game type / mode has their own respective leaderboards and variation to the base-gameplay that makes it an entirely new adventure. This is where the longevity of the game really comes into play.
Some modes have the movement of your ship switched to gyroscopic controls; others charge you with destroying enemies using only your boost ability, and a slew of others. There are a ton of different variations, each with their own respective leaderboards. It is that “old school” appeal that keeps players coming back for more in SSD. It reminds me a lot the old arcade scene where you struggled to keep your initials in the top spot of the respective scoreboards.
SSD has something that many games lack in today’s industry: an insane fun factor combined with ridiculous replay value. This is the type of game that begs to be picked up and played in short spurts time after time after time. It has become my go-to game when I have 2-3 minutes to spare and my Vita is sitting there looking at me. This addictive gameplay is combined with some incredibly sharp visuals and a rocking soundtrack that keeps the action moving. SSD looks every bit as good, if not better, then the PSN original on the PS3.
The only thing that the game is missing is a further extension of the included leaderboards. While they are the focus of the game and its star attraction as it stands, they could have been used in a more effectively. The game begs for a notification system that alerts you when your scores have been toppled. If something had been used similar to perhaps EA’s Autolog system or SSX’s Ridernet, this could have been pretty much the perfect game.
As it is, SSD is an incredible package and the addictive nature of the game, combined with the variety of gameplay options, and should be enough to keep any gamer happy for quite some time. The DLC package on its own is a little on the pricey side, but the bundle deal offered through the PlayStation Store brings it down to a reasonable amount. If you’re looking for a go-to game for your travels on your shiny new handheld, this is your game.
Author’s note: Super Star Dust Delta was purchased as a part of a bundle that included the additional DLC pack titled the Blast Pack. Not all of the modes discussed in this review are available in the base version of the game.