We hadn’t heard much about Stardrone before it landed onto the PSN. It had crept in under the radar and landed quietly and politely, waiting to be noticed. And notice it we did, enough to give it a going over and discover that what lies beneath is addictive enough to warrant its own support group.
The game concept itself is simple. Stardrone has you launching a drone into each level in the direction of your choice in order to collect stars and gems, killing anything nasty as you go. After launching the drone it will fly happily in a straight line until it’s given a reason to change direction; this might be hitting a wall, bouncing off a pinball-style buffer or being thrown by a blast of air. Obviously aiming once and watching the drone bounce around the place wouldn’t really make a very fun game, and luckily you have plenty of opportunity to redirect your drone by shooting a white rope-type thing and hooking onto a series of nodes around each level. This results in you spinning around the node until you release the button and shoot off in whichever direction your momentum takes you.
It’s such a simple idea. You only need to use a single button to launch the probe and hook onto the nodes, and apart from pushing one of the analogue sticks towards the node you want to connect to (and obviously not even this if you’re using Move) that’s all you ever need to use. No guns, no complicated movements, just pure momentum. And yet it’s utterly compelling. The visuals are really nice without ever becoming anything special, but they suit their purpose down to a tee, belching bright colours at every opportunity as you bounce off stuff and kill various nasties around the level. Disposing of your enemies will require you to build up a bit of a combo and collect enough stars to catch on fire – from here on you’re in control and any bad things that get in the way will be comfortably disposed of, although obviously you’ll still ping off in another direction as a result of the impact.
The levels themselves aren’t difficult on the whole. Some of them you’ll finish in seconds, others are a bit tougher and will have you plunging into some spikes as you drift out of range of a grabbable node, but very few of them will challenge you enough to give you nightmares. The challenge lies in the scores themselves, beating yours and your friends’ bests and reaching the medals on offer – the top prize of a gold medal is a pain in the backside to achieve, and it’ll take a perfect path through the level to get the combos and speedy times required. But in a similar style to stunt-em-up (it’ll catch on) Joe Danger, repeating each level to improve your score become an automatic reaction, and before long your quick 10 minute session to beat a few more levels has turned into a 2 hour marathon to gain an extra few points to get a new medal or beat that cocky friend who’s a bit too good at the game.
So the levels are really well designed, but there are a small number of ropey ones that either end up being fairly frustrating or random to the point that finishing it feels way more fluky than skilful, but considering you tend to have a few levels ahead of you unlocked you can always skip a level if you’re having trouble. Whether this was a conscious decision as a result of some levels being a bit unreasonable I’ve no idea, but it’s a handy feature to have in place. There are a decent number of levels too, so you won’t be finished in half an hour, not by a long shot.
But overall, this is an easy to play, difficult to ignore title. Is Stardrone for you? Well, that depends. Do you enjoy old fashioned arcade games where the main objective is beating your own scores? Do you have competitive friends who look for every opportunity to beat each other? Are you after something relaxing, easy to play and a little unusual? If the answer to any of these is yes, then this is the game for you. If not, it might be hard to warrant the £6.29, although you’ll be missing out on something that you won’t really see anywhere else on the PS3.