StarDrone Extreme

Warning! Only Play In A Padded Room!

StarDrone Extreme might cost you a Vita if you aren't careful.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: June 23, 2012
Last year we were pretty impressed by Beatshapers StarDrone, a unique blend of pinball and Peggle that was an early adopter of Move controls. Flash forward to today, StarDrone Extreme makes it way onto the Vita at the bargain price of $3.99. How does it stack up to its big brother?


For the most part, this is still the same game. A little bit of the visual flash has been left at the wayside, but what is there looks fantastic on the OLED screen. You'll still find the same gameplay that centers around launching your drone to complete the task of reaching the end of the maze, lighting up all the stars, gathering all the bits or killing all the baddies. There are a few new enemies and environmental obstacles this time arounds, yet it'll still be familiar if you played it in the past.

The most noticeable change is the control scheme. On the PS3, StarDrone made great use of the Move wand if you had one, and controls felt very natural. On the Vita, everything revolves around the touch screen. Beatshapers has listened to my lamentations, and made using the back touch panel and option, although the game sometimes requires a bit of precision that is hard to achieve without rubbing the front of the screen. That of course has the downside of obscuring the action, but since much of the time is spent drifting aimlessly without your input, that isn't as big of a deal as it could be.

A few things haven't changed of course. You still only have two ways of controlling the action after you launch your drone. Activating a gravity beacon will suck your drone into orbit and releasing it will send you off in a new direction, and when you have built up enough power you can enter superdrone mode and rocket through bad guys like a knife through hot butter. But more importantly, what hasn't changed is the EXTREME difficulty. In fact, the Extreme in StarDrone Extreme probably refers to just that. Many of the levels are easy and you'll breeze through them on the first try, but then they throw in a face-meltingly mind-numbingly Vita-smashingly difficult level that you can't imagine you'll ever get past. Alas, the difficulty doesn't ramp up as much as it spikes very sharp pointy spikes like the ones that smash your drone to bits. It's not uncommon to have to put in a dozen tries or more attempting to puzzle out how to make your way through the mazes. Sure, most levels can be beat in two minutes or less, but that just makes spending 30 minutes on one all that much more egregious.

Thankfully Beatshapers understands (belatedly) how this might frustrate players and keep the later levels from being witnessed by more than a handful of players. At launch they offered a bit of DLC for a buck that allows you to skip any level you like. Sure, you don't get credit for completing it, but at least you can move on. Even better, after a bit of outcry they took that one dollar price tag away, and now you can grab the level skip DLC for free with the game. It certainly isn't the ideal solution (make the game a bit easier would be), but no longer do you have to wonder what comes next.

StarDrone Extreme is a nice addition to the Vita library. The short missions are perfect for pick-up-and-play wherever you are, and the touchscreen makes a decent substitution for the Move controls. If you can curb your frustrations about how sadistic a few of the levels are, you'll find this a good use of four dollars!
The Verdict
7.5

It doesn't quite live up to its bigger cousin, mainly due to some difficulty issues and a control scheme that doesn't feel quite as natural. It's still a great game to pay on the go though, and there isn't anything else quite like it.

8.0Graphics:

Nice bright colors really pop on the Vita screen. Some of the "rocks" have textures so real you can feel the crags on them. A little more glitz might have been nice, but overall it's pretty.

7.0Sound:

Space has no sounds, so anything at all is a bonus, right? The sound effects are passable and the music is good enough to not become a distraction when you hear it over and over.

7.5Control:

Almost entirely controlled by touch, there are times when you wish you had a bit more control at launch and finding the right beacon was a tad bit easier, but no real complaints here.

7.0Gameplay:

Some of the levels are brilliant and working the puzzles out is a pleasure. Some of the others were designed by people that clearly hate games. Shooting for better medals gives you a reason to come back after a first run.