Super Stardust Delta Review
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On 03/12/2012 at 10:45 PM by Nick DiMola
A twin stick shooter on a portable? Unpossible!
For fans of the series looking for more of the same.
Launch titles that showcase a system’s features have become all too common. These games are typically built on a gimmick, like augmented reality, tilt, or touch. But in the case of Super Stardust Delta there are no gimmicks, just a showcase of the dual analog sticks – a first for portable gaming. Housemarque has done a fantastic job in bringing the twin-stick-shooter genre to portables with its sequel to the already phenomenal Super Stardust HD on the PlayStation 3.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Housemarque has gone with the same tried and true formula found in the preceding title. Comprised of five planets, each with five phases, you’ll need to blast your way through falling asteroids and a plethora of enemies, all on the surface of a spherical planet.
While the general construction of the game has remained the same, Super Stardust Delta introduces its own unique mechanics, a small set of mini-games, and a trimmed weapon set. Instead of three weapons you’ll simply have two at your disposal: fire and ice. Fire blasts out in a steady stream allowing you to use the projectile as if it were a fiery whip. Ice on the other hand comes out as a spread array of bullets.
Each enemy and asteroid can be more effectively destroyed with one weapon over the other – a concept Delta takes advantage of at all times. Everything is color-coded, making it easy to identify what enemies must be destroyed with what weapon. Rather than utter chaos with an intermingling of enemies and asteroids of opposing colors, each level is more about controlled chaos and constant configurations meant to trap you if you aren’t thinking on your toes.
Quite often you’ll see asteroids dropped, forming a wall, while enemies of an opposing color are sent to pursue and trap you. As you can imagine, it’s satisfying to recognize and defeat these traps as they’re formed.
As the levels progress, you’ll begin to rely more on memorization to make it through after countless failed attempts. With no checkpoints, you may be seeing the first phase of any given level many, many times. This can be frustrating if you happen to lose during the last phase, but more often than not it serves as motivation to perfect your runs.
The duality of the weapon system really shines during the last phase of each level wherein you fight a massive boss. You’ll find yourself switching between the two frequently to hit different segments of the bosses with the proper weapon to inflict damage. These encounters offer the perfect climax to an intense build up over four challenging phases.
There’s no question that Super Stardust Delta is a challenging game, but it offers a plethora of options that will accommodate players of varying levels of skill. Casual difficulty is easy enough that anyone will be able to make it through each and every level. Normal offers the perfect degree of challenge, but even here you have two variations (Pure and Delta) to tweak the difficulty. Pure will grant you access to the same abilities you had in Super Stardust HD, while Delta provides you a few more special weapons to ease the more intense segments of levels.
A homing missile and a black hole join the EMP blast to help clear out enemies in a pinch. Your boost ability to help evade enemies also slows down time in Delta mode, making it a bit easier to navigate. Despite these “enhancements” I found it most redeeming to play in the game’s Pure mode, but I welcome the ability to vary the experience.
As mentioned earlier, one of the few new additions to the experience are throwaway: Vita-feature driven mini-games. You can do things like pinch asteroids out of existence, or navigate with tilt controls. They’re not bad by any means, but they have no lasting power – after giving them one shot, you won’t likely come back for a second.
With this in mind, Super Stardust Delta is a bit of a thin offering. While it’s a blast to make your way through the challenging quest, if you aren’t interested in achieving high scores you’ll likely blast through the game very quickly, leaving nothing to come back to. For those into the high score grind, leaderboards among friends are displayed prominently, giving you that little nudge of inspiration to hop into another run to best their scores.
If you loved Super Stardust HD and absolutely need more, Delta is a great choice. However, this experience isn’t different enough to spring for another edition if you’re satisfied with what you already have on your PlayStation 3.