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Game Review Hub: Super Stardust Delta
Genre: Dual stick shooter
Platform: PSN for Vita
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Estimated length: 6 hours
Rating: 4 out of 5
Dual stick shooters are a fairly new genre of games. Inspired by classics like Asteroids, dual stick shooters attempt to take advantage of modern control schemes to make games of that nature easier to play. By dedicating one thumb stick to movement, and the other to shooting, problems like the loose control and only being able to shoot straight ahead, are alleviated. Super Stardust Delta adds some visual flare and a few unique control tweaks to make a really interesting game.
Super Stardust Delta is a simple game. You are a small craft that must defend against waves of enemies by shooting either blue projectiles, or a red stream of matter. Blue enemies are more damaged by your blue attack, and red enemies are more damaged by your red attack. Such a simple system is actually pretty clever, because in addition to the colored weakness of enemies, these attacks behave very differently. The blue attack travels in a straight line and has a slow rate of fire compared to the red attack, but it travels much further. The red attack comes out in a stream, which can be whipped around using the right stick and damages large groups of enemies, but it's effective range is much more limited than the blue attack. This dynamic actually adds an interesting bit of strategy to the combat.
There are also some special attacks which can be activated using the Vita's many different control interfaces. Touching the rear touch pad creates a black hole, which sucks in enemies in a wide circle. The left bumper slows down time and lets you charge through enemies, damaging them as you go. Touching the front touch screen shoots out a volley of rockets in all directions, which is great for getting yourself out of tough spots. All of these abilities have limited uses and refills are gained by killing enemies or getting points.
The enemies in SSD are pretty varied. There are simple rocks which can be destroyed to receive powerups, such as extra lives or additional special attacks. Then there are more active enemies, such as small turrets that shoot projectiles, worm like enemies that build walls as they move to limit your movement, and suicide bomber enemies that home in on your location and crash into you. Each of these enemies is easy to deal with by itself, but when you encounter a few different ones it can be very challenging. Each story level also has a boss fight. They are designed very well, and usually consist of multiple stages. Each stage having it's own attack and weak points, usually requiring you to take advantage of both of your attack types to do any considerable damage.
One of the best things about this game is how beautiful it is. The different color enemies, plus your attacks and pickups that litter the screen create an amazing cacophony of light and colors that look really great on the Vita's screen. This is one of those games that you should take those seizure warnings seriously. Sometimes there are so many flashing lights that I lost track of what was going on, prompting me to use a special attack just to get my bearings back.
SSD is a fun game to play, and it's only fault is how little of it there is. The story mode consists of 5 different worlds, each ending in a boss fight. There are two difficulty levels, and high scores are tracked across each world, which enables some re-playability, however it still feels a bit short. There are also a few mini games that come with the main game, as well as some alternate game modes that are included in the DLC pack. Each of these is designed to take advantage of a different feature of the Vita, but they feel more like poorly designed tech demos rather than decent alternatives to the real game. For example one mode has you rolling a ball around the screen by tilting the vita in different directions, but it does not feel anywhere near as tight or well designed as the regular game.
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Super Stardust Delta is a really fun game to play. The controls work very well on the Vita and the visuals are really beautiful. However, the only content worth your time is a fairly short campaign which can be replayed for high score. The mini games are not very good and I would not recommend the DLC because the new games modes are not much fun. On the other hand when you consider the price, even the few hours of the story mode are worth the few dollars you will spend, and this is a great game to leave on your Vita and play for a few minutes when you have some down time.