I’m sure a lot of you PlayStation 3 owners are pretty sore that you never got a port of the twin stick shooter Geometry Wars, but look on the bright side. You did get a spectacular shooter with Housemarque’s Super Stardust HD. It's essentially a variation of the arcade classic Asteroids, but on a 3D plane and with interesting power-ups and enemies to destroy; it became a cult classic in its own right. The same goes for Super Stardust Portable, which came out for the PSP a little bit later. So how do you improve upon such a shooting experience? By mixing up the gameplay, as Super Stardust Delta easily does for the PlayStation Vita.
The goal is about the same as other versions of Stardust. You move through stage after stage, using various shooting types to destroy everything in your path. Huge meteors appear on the screen, and as you chip away at them, they break into pieces, eventually creating smaller, just-as-deadly debris that needs to be obliterated. Various enemies make a return as well, assuring that meeting your goal of clearing the planet won’t be so easily met.
The general gameplay is handled using the PS Vita’s twin sticks. The left controls your ship movement, while the right helps you direct your fire. While that’s nothing new, Housemarque does take away super bombs, which are normally used to blow up everything that’s around you.
But the developer didn’t leave you empty handed. In their place are a number of new (albeit limited) power-ups that will help you get a jump on enemies and obstacles. First up is the ability to freeze time, which stops everything on screen except you, allowing you to clear out some space and avoid situations were death is imminent. Then there are the missiles, which fire in succession at everything within your firing range. These are especially useful when it comes to bigger enemies, like bosses that await you at the end of each stage set. You can also shake your system to activate a temporary shockwave, disabling enemies that are close by.
Probably the most startling weapon in your arsenal, though, is the Black Hole. It’s exactly as it sounds, a portable vortex that sucks everything into it within range for a few seconds. This is excellent when it comes to clearing large field of rocks — though it does come with a drawback that you should be aware of. See, black holes work in reverse, sucking everything into its range and making them move towards it. If you’re in this vicinity, you have to avoid these incoming objects, or risk blowing up your ship. This adds a whole new level of strategy of the game, and may have you thinking twice about just dropping one of these babies at random. Still, if you can master its use, it’s perfect for Delta’s tougher stages.
Though we didn’t get to see too much of the game in motion, Housemarque has packed Delta with some smooth visuals that really make the most out of the PS Vita’s screen without any loss in frame rate or detail. The game still works in its traditional 3D set-up, so players who have played previous versions of Stardust will be familiar with it right away.
Best of all, Super Stardust Delta will have a sort of “greatest hits” packaging when it comes to modes. All of the modes from previous games are included, such as Bomb Mode and Survival, along with new ones that make use of the Vita’s capabilities. What those are, we don’t know yet…but we’d like to see a Black Hole challenge pop up in there somewhere.
Super Stardust hasn’t failed us yet, becoming one of the PS3’s best downloadable games and earning praise on the PSP as well. Delta looks like it’ll be joining those ranks as well. We’ll let you know how this shooter fares when it becomes available for download February 22, 2012.