StarDrone Extreme is one such game. Sporting a $3.99 price tag and around 70 levels of gameplay that mixes the antics of Angry Birds with physics-based racing (sort of), it's a game that offers plenty of bang for your buck, shiny graphics, a decent soundtrack and a hard focus on touchscreen controls.
From Beatshapers and Orb Games, StarDrone Extreme is an updated version of a PSN title with several new bells and whistles thrown in for good measure and, despite a few nagging complaints, a fast and furious brand of gameplay that works well in short bursts.
Trying to explain StarDrone is a little tricky. The object of the game is to guide your ship around levels ranging from tiny to massive in order to complete a set of objectives as quickly as possible. The catch is in how physics come into play, making each level a mad dash of bouncy, sling-shotty antics to discover the optimal route to the finish line in the least amount of time.
Once your ship is launched, the thing stays in constant motion. Most levels require you to light up (touch) all stars spread across the map in order to finish. Some require you to snag additional jewels, dangling behind your ship like a technicolor tail, and then find the correct drop-off point before you can complete the level. Others are simply a race to the finish.
Making matters more tricky are spiked walls, chompy bad guys and the danger of launching yourself into the vastness of space. In order to guide your ship, each level also houses a healthy supply of axels you can spin around. Touch the screen near an axel and your ship will be tethered, allowing you to whip it around corners, out of harm's way, etc. You'll also find boost pads, speedy alleys and gates requiring color-coded keys to spice things up.
While StarDrone is a blast when you're getting the controls correct, frustration can quickly set in when you hit a level that requires perfect aim to get through. Sometimes being off by just a fraction of a degree will cause your ship to bounce out of control, into various obstacles and explode into oblivion. That can be a real pain when you find yourself deep into one of the larger levels. The ability to skip troublesome levels is offered, but only if you purchase an additional pass to do so.
Another problem actually arises out of the touch controls themselves. You only need to touch in the general area of an axel to tether your ship to it, which works well the majority of the time. Once the screen gets crowded, though, that method will result in your ship being tethered to the wrong axel more often than not. More precise touching is the easy solution, but that usually results in your thumbs covering the screen, making it difficult to see where your ship is or in which direction you want to be headed.
If you can muscle past these frustrating moments, StarDrone Extreme is a pretty fun downloadable title. There's cross-play and cross-saves with the PSN version of the game, additional levels you can only access on the Vita and a few options (like adjusting the ship's speed) to help you get past some of the tougher spots. There are a few hours' worth of entertainment here and loads more for those who like chasing high scores on leaderboards, tackling levels time and time again in order to shave a few seconds off of their best time.
The Official Verdict: 3 out of 5
This review is based on a downloadable copy of the game provided by the publisher.