StarDrone

While fun at first, StarDrone gets too ambitious for its own good.

By Buckley, Posted 08 Mar 2011
The release of the Playstation Move motion controller has introduced some new options for games on the Playstation platform, but perhaps more than anything else, it has spawned affordable, small-budget content on the Playstation Store. At first, StarDrone feels like it might be one of the diamonds in the rough among the inexpensive titles supporting the new controller. But as the name may imply, it simply begins to drone on after a short while.
 
StarDrone is an aerial-view gravity-based game in which you guide a small ship (the drone) on a flat plane through space. However, you don't directly control the drone itself. Scattered throughout each level are numerous hubs. By pointing the Move controller at a hub and pressing the Move button, you activate that hub's field of gravity for the duration that the button is held. Activating a hub nearby the drone pulls the drone towards it. If you continue to hold the button, it will orbit the hub. Let go of the button and the drone will use the momentum to float in the given direction, hopefully towards another hub that can then be activated to continue the movement or swing it in another direction.

StarDrone screen 1
Spiked walls are the worst thing. Ever.

StarDrone is touted as an "Action/Puzzle" game, but there's not much puzzle to it. The objective is always clear from the start, though it varies from level to level. The most common objective is to activate all of the stars on the level. This requires using the gravity hubs to guide the drone through the level, passing it over the transparent stars and lighting them up, all the while avoiding obstacles like spiked walls and floating enemies who will try to end your quest prematurely. If you touch enough stars, your drone will light up orange and can then destroy the pursuing enemies by touching them, much like Pac-Man can eat ghosts after collecting a power pellet. This ability is used to accomplish another level objective which is to destroy all of the enemies in a level before they destroy you. There are also several levels which command you to "Cross the finish line to save the galaxy from evil!", requiring you to get from point A to point B without dying, though it's unclear exactly how doing so accomplishes anything beneficial to said galaxy.
 
At first, these varied levels and objectives are short and sweet, and dare I say, fun. It almost felt like the developer took a cue from Super Meat Boy in delivering the game in small-servings, making it easy to come back for more, but the comparisons stop there. After the 20 level mark, the game begins to feel repetitive and plodding, and you're not quite halfway to the end, as the game contains over 50 levels. The same objectives are recycled over and over, and the levels become entirely too long. Collecting stars is fun when it's in a quick minute-long stage where if you miss one, it's a short trip back to find it. But as the game continues, levels are sprawling and complex, and hunting out that last star becomes a chore.

StarDrone screen 2
The game looks rather pretty in HD, and supports 3D.

In addition, the pacing is all over the place. There are some extremely difficult levels that crop up on occasion, but it's almost nonsensical when they occur. You might find yourself attempting the same level over and over until you finally succeed, only to pass the next 2 or 3 levels on the first try in no time flat. In some ways, it's nice to get through a frustrating level and be treated to a cakewalk to get your confidence back up, but it prevents the game from giving any feeling of progression. It almost comes off like an album of songs that jump around randomly in feel and style, the antithesis of cohesive. And unlike the aforementioned Super Meat Boy, hitting a spiked wall or getting killed by an enemy triggers the obligatory "oh poo, you died" song for a few moments before restarting the level. This isn't a huge issue, but if you're going to make a game hard and repetitive, don't make us wait before trying again, especially when there are plenty of moments where failure can come instantly and often.
 
Friend and global leaderboards are included and intended to encourage some replay value. Unfortunately, many of the levels in the game are best when they're over and done with, and there's no additional incentive to play them repeatedly. For those who desire a sadistic challenge, there's also a speed slider to make the game faster and, in turn, more difficult, but the default setting is the slowest, and some of the levels are rage-quit-worthy enough as it is. It also says something that while the game is inexpensive at $7.99 and includes over 50 levels, it can definitely be completed in well under 4 hours. And yet, those 4 hours drone on. Time only flies when you're having fun.

StarDrone gives off a decent first impression when the levels are short and sweet. The Playstation Move controls make the gravity mechanic fun to master at first. But as time goes on, it gets too ambitious for its own good, opting for needlessly lengthy levels and occasionally punishing difficulty. The leaderboards and speed customization are not enough incentive to give it replay value, and the sub-4-hour gameplay is only fun for about the first hour. The heart of StarDrone is in the right place but it ultimately takes a good idea and tries entirely too hard to make it more than that. If you're dying for more titles to play with your Playstation Move and you have 8 bucks to burn, there are worse choices than StarDrone, but do yourself a favor and quit early before you burn yourself out.
 
Matt Buckley, NoobFeed
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  • An interesting little game for the Move. Looks quite addictive!

    Great review, Buckley!


    Posted Mar 10, 2011

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General Information

StarDrone

58/100

Platform(s): PS3, PC, WII, Vita, Mobile
Publisher(s): Beatshapers, Tastyplay.com
Developer(s): Beatshapers
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2011-03-02

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