StarDrone Review

By Darryl Kaye on March 28, 2011

Following the appearance of the PlayStation Move peripheral last year, developers have been attempting to figure out exactly how they can make it work for them. Beatshapers are one such developer, as they've released a new game on the PlayStation Network called StarDrone, which looks to utilise the PlayStation Move controller, while at the same time showing off some high-definition visuals.

Stripping away the almost non-existence story, StarDrone is a puzzle/action game that challenges you with completing certain objectives in order to finish a level. In the final levels, it's suggested that there is something going on, but it's not meant to be taken seriously, as the "boss level" only tasks you with taking down a few enemies that look almost identical to the generic enemy throughout the entire campaign. The last level is equally transparent, as you just have to escape in order to "save the universe"... yea.

Anyway, the game is all about momentum. You started off every level by firing your vessel in a designated direction, and that initial momentum carries you through the entire level. The hook, pun intended, is that you need to point your Move controller at various nodes that appear throughout the levels. Once latched, you'll be able to alter your ships momentum, which allows you to change the direction your ship is headed. In the early levels, there isn't really any kind of danger associated with doing this, but as the game progresses, precision is actually really important. It's worth pointing out that the game can also be played with a standard controller, although it's slightly more tricky - more on that later though.

There are a few different ways in which a level can be completed. The first, and most obvious, is to simply get from the start to the finish. Ironically, these levels are often the hardest, as the game will throw lots of hazards and awkwardly placed nodes in there to test your reactions and timing. Quite often it's not simply a case of latching onto the node, but knowing when to latch on, and when to let go. It can be very frustrating, but can also be very gratifying and this is partially down to the way levels are designed. Generally on these levels, there will be a very challenging start, and the difficulty goes down from there. It means that if you get past the first bit and then die to something stupid in the later section of the level, you'll have a feeling of dread as you know you've got to try and somehow do that first bit again.

The three other ways to finish a level are: collecting various objects and placing them in a big star at the end; lighting up all of the different stars in a level; and defeating all of the enemies in a level. Each of the game types has their own slight variation and level design to accommodate the task, although the collecting and lighting-up levels feel very similar.Defeating enemies in the game is slightly unique though, as in your basic form you can only take a few hits. By lighting up stars, you fill up a bar, and when the bar fills you go a power mode. While in this mode, you can smash through ice, and destroy enemies no problem - you'll still get killed if you touch a spike though. It creates an interesting mechanic, as you quickly go from being cowardly to being massively aggressive - well, as aggressive as you can be when you don't have a massive amount of choice about where you're going.

The problem with StarDrone though, is that the levels aren't all that consistent. While the goal-type levels will cause mass frustration, the other types aren't all that challenging and will often be completed first-time, and with a good medal too. The goal-type levels are also a lot faster, as in the later levels, the game provides boost-pads to quickly change your direction. However, even when using the Move controller, on the last few levels, you'll need some rather quick reactions to grab onto the right node.

When using a standard controller, things get more tricky still. To tell the ship which node to attach to, you have to direct its sensor using the analog stick. However, it will often get confused between nodes. If there are two next to each other, it could attach to either of them, or if there's one behind the other, it might attach to the one behind. It can be exceedingly frustrating, as grabbing the wrong node generally means an instant-death. Sure, the game is primarily focussed at the Move controller, but the node selection could have been programmed better for those using a standard controller.

Graphically the game is ok. There is a nice colour palette used, and everything stands out well enough. The mini-map is even nice enough to highlight the last few objectives, if you have no idea where they are. The sound design is decent, but the music isn't all that special - it's just a pretty bland "space" tune, which just loops over and over.

The game also falls short on replay value. There are 53 different levels to try, and you can attain a "pass", bronze, silver or gold. However, once you've gone through each of the levels, that's the only incentive to actually go back and play through them all again - to try and beat your time. And when you consider that the game can probably be completed in a relatively short space of time, it's a bit frustrating that other modes or gameplay options weren't included.

Final Thoughts

StarDrone is a pretty decent title that makes use of the PlayStation Move peripheral through some unique gameplay. However, there are problems with the standard controller and the pacing of the game isn't the best. There's also very limited replay value to be had, something which isn't all that great when you consider how short the game is.

Uses the PlayStation Move peripheral well
Unique gameplay mechanic
Some fun experiences to be had throughout the different levels
Very short game
The game has some frustrating pacing
Standard controls aren't the best
blog comments powered by Disqus