Although the PlayStation Store has plenty of great downloadable titles now, there was a time early on during the PS3’s lifespan when there wasn’t much in the hopper. However, one of the very first fantastic PSN titles released and quickly generated a horde of positive critical reviews. Many PS3 users who took the time and dropped the relatively small amount of cash to try Super Stardust HD came away very satisfied, and a few even developed an unhealthy addiction to the engaging puzzler. I distinctly recall an old roommate of mine downloading the game on a whim…later that night, I went into the kitchen to grab a soda and found him still playing. It had been six hours, and he still had no intention of stopping. Well, this is the kind of crazy addictive fun Sony wants to make portable, as they plan to release Super Stardust Portable for the PSP some time next year. It’s the perfect handheld title in many ways; the system already has plenty of great puzzlers, and there’s a reason for that: when you’re on the go, you want a simple game that’ll keep your interest.
From what we’ve heard, the PSP version will be quite similar to the PSN version. Basically, the concept sounds a lot like a next-gen version of Asteroids or Galaga, as you control a spaceship operating in the depths of the galaxy, working to destroy everything from random space objects to live space nasties. You have three different types of weapons at your disposal – mostly for use against different-colored asteroids – and there are special inventory items like bombs. Obviously, there isn’t anything overly complicated about the gameplay, but much like any puzzle game, the following theorem applies: “easy to play, not so easy to master.” It shouldn’t take you long to settle down with the controls, and once you do, it’ll be a matter of timing and precision from there on out. Furthermore, if you’ve tried it on the PSN already, you know just how entertaining the two-player matches can be; remember those rainy days competing against a buddy in Super Bust-a-Move? I remember them quite well; it was colorful, fast, and offered seemingly endless fun. Heck, sometimes I wonder why we even stopped.
Now, some of you may worry about the game’s transition to the PSP, and according to early feedback, your concerns may have merit. The game was on display at E3 this year, and those who gave it a try came away scratching their heads. However, since that time, Sony Computer Entertainment has continued to work, and they’ve also clarified a few erroneous reports that began to crisscross the Internet after E3. First of all, you can perform most – if not all – of the maneuvers you’d be familiar with from Super Stardust HD, and that includes the very useful Wave effect provided by your primary weapon. In the PSP version, you have to keep pressing one of the face buttons repeatedly to get the Wave, and to execute the Gold Melter shield, you have to press three face buttons simultaneously. Now, depending on how checked out you are on Sony’s portable unit, this may or may not cause a problem, but we’d like to think this is easy and accessible. We just hope we don’t have to use the same set of buttons for too many actions; that can get more than a little frustrating.
Our primary concern revolves around the fact that we’ll fire with the face buttons. Doesn’t this mean we can only fire in eight set directions, which would seriously limit our aiming capability? Also, according to IGN and a few other sources who laid their hands on the game at E3, we’ll no longer have a complete view of the planet like we did in Super Stardust HD. Well, we assume things need to be shrunken down a bit in order to accommodate the smaller screen, but let’s just hope this doesn’t significantly inhibit the gameplay. Beyond this, though, there’s really nothing to worry about. You simply move the ship around with the analog controls, the boosting and bombs are handled with the shoulder buttons, and provided the face buttons work well for firing, everything should be fine. We expect nothing less than what we got from the PSN, and we trust SCE to give handheld owners a similar – if not superior – experience. The PSP could always use more great fast-action puzzlers, wouldn’t you say?
Super Stardust Portable is still in development, and we don’t yet have a concrete release date. We’re hoping for early 2009, but there’s no guarantee; it may not arrive until later in the year. But regardless of its launch date, we firmly believe it’ll be a great option for fans of the genre, especially if Sony decides to give it the appropriate budget price tag…
10/7/2008 Ben Dutka