If you’re a fan of intergalactic adventures, with a passion for explosions and a desire to gun down a fathomless amount of asteroids and robots, oh and you like saving the universe every now and again, then Housemarque’s latest title, Super Stardust Delta, may be right up your ally.
Twin stick shooters have a long and colourful history, the simplicity of the genre, coupled with the fun factor, makes them appealing to just about everyone. Housemarque threw their hat into the ring in 2007 with Super Stardust HD on the PS3, and later on the PSP, it was a big success, receiving generous review scores across the board. Now it’s time for them to have a bash at Sony’s new baby, the PS Vita. But will Super Stardust Delta replicate the same success of its older brother?
Initial impressions look good, the main attraction of SSD being the accessible and rewarding gameplay. To put it simply you play as a starship tasked with defending planets against a relentless onslaught of asteroids and robots. You’ll have some interesting weapons at your disposal in the form of a Fire Beam (for destroying those orange tinted asteroids) and an Ice Beam (for the blue tinted ones). You’ll never be short of rocks to shoot at and most of the big ones will leave behind glowing green cores which, when destroyed, leave a handy power up behind, increasing the amount of damage you can do and reliving some pressure when you find yourself surrounded and overwhelmed.
A number of the old enemies have returned along with some new additions giving a diverse range of intergalactic bad guys to shoot, and boy are they’re challenging too. The high level of challenge is probably Delta’s most attractive feature; it builds up a high level of determination in the player because you’ll always want to beat your own high score and the scores of your PSN friends. Your friend’s scores are helpfully displayed during the game over screen and the level select screen, taunting you and goading you into trying again. Of course earning high scores is rarely easy to do, you need to have quick reactions and a keen eye to make sure you don’t get shot or just stupidly run into a rock. The frequency at which these collisions happen during the heat of battle can be a bit annoying.
There are plenty of power ups to hold your hand though, which take advantage of the Vita’s intuitive touch controls very well. As you collect specials you’ll be able to execute a 360 degree homing missile launch by tapping the touchscreen, taking out everything around you and chasing after any stragglers who try and get away. There is also a powerful EMP bomb which can be activated by shaking the Vita console. You also have the option to create some devastating black holes by tapping the rear touch pad, sucking almost everything on screen towards it’s core, and sometimes even destroying yourself if you’re not careful. Despite working perfectly well, and being one of the only new power ups in Delta, the black holes can get easily wasted when your hands slips a little to far. How much of an issue this is will obviously depend on the size of your hands, but I found it to be particularly troublesome.
Finally a new boost system has been added that temporarily slows down time at the start of each boost, enabling you to navigate through tight spots with greater accuracy and destroy anything in your path. The length of the boost can also be upgraded in the same manner as the weapons by collecting power ups.
All in all the gameplay is solid, the controls are very comfortable and you’ll get plenty of life out of the campaign with multiple mini games and even DLC to try, should you feel so inclined. It’s perfect for a portable console and quite demanding technically, but thanks to some clever coding the game runs perfectly at 60fps with loading times kept relatively low. One big feature Delta is lacking is an actual story or plot, you’re never told exactly who you are or why you are doing what you’re doing. For the most part it’s not really required, but it would have been nice to get a little context. Perhaps that’s something we can expect in the next instalment of the series.
The PS Vita’s large high resolution screen looks like it was made for Delta’s beautifully radiant colour palette which, against the backdrop of space, really pops our at you. Delta’s graphics are impressive in every respect, from the dazzling lasers and bullets, that obliterate everything in your path, to the detailed planetary backdrops. Clearly a lot of shaders were used to make it as bright as possible, with each planet having it’s own style and theme, leading to beautiful psychedelic visual orgy of colours and lights.
But despite how impressive Delta is visually it wouldn’t be complete without a stellar soundtrack and Housemarque have done a great job with that as well. The music maintains a tense atmosphere and keeps the pacing just right. The sound effects are a real treat and they make blowing stuff up more fun than ever. Using the PS Vita’s Near function allows you to unlock new soundtracks that have been shared by your friends. The process is seemingly done automatically, so whenever you turn your PS Vita on there is a chance that you’ll be greeted with a nice surprise. However it’s an afterthought more than anythings else, we all love free stuff but you wouldn’t miss the feature had it not been there.
All in all Super Stardust Delta is a very complete package which is sure to bring you plenty of hours of galactic fun. It has some epic moments, especially when you encounter the huge bosses that dominate the entire circumference of the planet. It’s one of those games where you may find yourself stuck in a trance-like state, entirely caught up in the action and mustering every once of mental strength you have just to make sure you don’t lose even one life.
However, despite all of Super Stardust Delta’s new features, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Fans of Super Stardust HD will likely be disappointed when they find this portable title to be more of the same, where as newcomers will undoubtedly consider it a delight.
Graphics: 5/5 - Dazzling graphics and an amazing firework display make this is one of the most visually impressive games you can buy for the Vita, on par with anything it’s big brother the PS3 can do.
Sound: 4/5 - The music is encouraging and the sound effects are satisfying, it keeps the pace and makes blowing stuff up a joy.
Gameplay: 3/5 - Apart from the Vita’s touch controls the gameplay doesn’t offer up anything new but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Super Stardust Delta is an incredibly fun, challenging game, that’s all to easy too get addicted to… if only to beat your friends high scores.
Longevity: 2.5/5 - It wont take long to work your way through all that Delta has to offer. Some simple mini games will keep you entertained for a short while and it’s a great game to have for whenever you’ve got a few minutes spared. If you find your craving more there’s always the (slightly expensive) DLC to try as well.
Overall:3.5 Black Holes out of 5
Super Stardust Delta is a high quality twin stick shooter with incredible graphics and fun gameplay, unfortunately it’s just lacking a few features that could have put it in the handheld hall of fame.
- Adam Radcliffe