Super Stardust HD Review

The realm of downloadable/indie content is an area of gaming that is continuing to grow in its importance. Housemarque’s Super Stardust HD was one of the five games available as part of Sony’s Welcome Back program, which is how I first heard of this impressive title.

Developer: Housemarque
Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony PlayStation 3
Single Player, Co-Op Multi-Player Mode
Shoot ‘Em Up
Release Date: (NA) June 28th 2007, (EU) June 29th 2007

The best way to describe Super Stardust HD is that it is a 3D remake of the classic arcade game Asteroids. The aim of the game is to pilot your fighter ship to destroy waves of rocks and enemies while aiming to obtain as many points as possible. However, you are not limited to the 2D realm as you can fly your ship anywhere on the spherical planet that you are playing on.

While there are limited game modes available, namely Arcade, Planet and Co-Op, the gameplay provides more than enough reason to keep coming back. A neat feature is the inclusion of online leaderboards so you can compare how you’ve fared against your friends, and globally which only adds to replayability.

Arcade mode puts the player through waves of enemies on each planet.  After completing the waves on each planet, a new planet is unlocked for the player to attempt. Planet mode puts the player onto one planet and they must attempt to gain the highest score possible until they run out of lives.  Co-Op allows two players to play locally on the same screen.

Each planet provides different rocks and enemies that utitlise each of the three different weapons that are fitted to your ship.  The three weapons you have available include a Rock Cutter, Ice Blaster and Gold Melter; as well the option for temporary boosters and powerful screen clearing bombs.

Visually, Super Stardust HD is truly a “HD” game in the true sense of the word.  All the animations are extremely sharp and colourful. The sound of this game complements the visuals extremely well with unique weapon sounds and explosions.

The combination of the audio and visual aspects results in a mind-blowing experience for the senses that always leaves me wanting to play another game, no matter the time of day.

Given that the audio and visual aspects of this game are so overwhelming, it is a great comfort that the controls of Super Stardust HD are extremely tight. The game utilises the left analogue stick to control the movement of your ship and the right stick to control the direction of your weapon fire. You will find that the game responds to your every move fluidly and the only person you can blame when your ship explodes is yourself!

The only downside of this game is the Co-Op Multi-player mode. Often during co-op mode, I had trouble keeping up with my own ship when my co-op partner was on the opposite end of the screen. It seems that the camera view would only move if both players were heading towards a certain direction, which is quite a minor flaw in such a well crafted game.

Finally, the most satisfying and haunting aspect of Super Stardust HD is the difficulty. Playing on even normal difficulty brings back childhood memories of the countless hours spent on arcade titles, consistently failing but wanting to get right back into it.  This game is so rewarding because it remains true to its “old-school” roots and has a punishing difficulty level that should leave most gamers on the verge of tears.

Overall, Super Stardust HD is an extremely impressive game definitely worth the price of admission. Essentially a steal for those who were lucky enough to grab it during the PSN Welcome Back program.

8.5 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.