These Stardust games seem to show up whenever Sony put out a new bit of hardware and Super Stardust Ultra VR continues the tradition, arriving as a launch title to support the PSVR headset. We’ve always liked this series of arcade-style twin-stick shooters but the PS4 entry for the series (Super Stardust Ultra) did feel a little flat to us, thanks in part to the fact that Housemarque were no longer the coders. However, it has to be noted that while I chased down the platinum on the game, I did grow to appreciate it a little more than I initially had.
Why is that important? Because this is the same game. So much so that it keeps the original trophy list (all completed in my case, not a fresh list) and adds a small handful of new ones in the same way that DLC trophies work. This is all made quite apparent when you fire up the game and see the list of modes on the main menu. All the old favourites are there but now there’s a new option at the bottom, Invasion Mode.
In the standard modes, the game plays out on large spheres that you fly around (kind of like tiny moons). Enemies, and meteors, drop onto the surface causing you all sorts of headaches as you blast through them with your arsenal of upgradable weapons and the tight twin-stick control set up. It was always pretty standard stuff but I’m a sucker for the genre. In standard Arcade Mode, there are five levels, each ending in a boss battle. This is the best part of the whole package but the other modes are also all very playable and you’ll have fun chasing down the trophies and leaderboard scores.
With its slick controls and even slicker visuals, the last game certainly felt professionally put together and it also supported 3D televisions and looked stunning in 3D. With you watching the action from above as the levels rotate. Well, now those levels are much closer to you, filling up the immediate display on your headset. Playing on a floating planetoid set in space, it’s the kind of thing VR is made for. You can look around at the space views around you but the action is all happening on the spherical level in front of you and it honestly looks like you could reach out and touch it.
So while it is a shame that it is exactly the same game as before, albeit it with the VR support, it’s a little unfair that the game is being treated as a new release (unlike Viva Ex Vivo which added its VR trickery with a free update). Having platinumed the game already, I’ve got no reason to replay the various standard modes here beyond chasing scores and I’m not arsed about that having retired the game ages ago.
Indeed, when I do hanker after a little Stardust action, I always go back to Super Stardust Delta on the Vita which is the superlative version of the game.
For me then all I can do is concentrate on the Invasion mode. Instead of the usual top-down viewpoint, this is a first person take on the gameplay. It feels much like driving around in Battlezone, but the controls feel decent and the visuals are pretty good (if not nearly as slick as the main modes). You control your vehicle with both sticks but your main aiming comes from looking at targets. It works extremely well, although my view did seem to want to slip to the left (and the in-game calibration is absolutely pointless) but it wasn’t enough to stop me beating the mode on Normal in my first go. It shows off the VR quite well but feels tacked on. The ten phases (their word for levels) are all set in the same lunar crater and while it is all pretty exciting at first, once it was over I was quite glad and only returned to take out some of the new trophies.
I never felt in any danger of failing on it (although there is a harder mode, and a trophy for beating it without powerups which will be a super ball-ache) which meant it was all a little unsatisfying in the end and with Battlezone doing a much better (albeit also more expensive) job of having you float around shooting things, this mode seems all too little to justify me buying the whole thing again.
If you’ve not played Super Stardust Ultra then this is a worthy purchase. The physical version is available for around £15 and for that you get the original game (which is playable with or without VR) and this new mode. It’s not enough for fans of the series and that’s a real shame but for everyone else, this is pretty essential stuff. Especially if you want to see some really nice 3D on your PSVR while playing one of the most accomplished shoot ’em ups on the system.