Super Stardust HD Hands-On
The omnidirectional shooter craze isn't over yet--Sony is prepping a new one for its download service, and we played it.
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If you couldn't get enough of Geometry Wars, Robotron, Blast Factor, Cash Guns Chaos, and all the other shoot-in-every-direction games that have been released in the last couple of years, Sony is cooking up a new one called Super Stardust HD that you'll be able to download to your PlayStation 3. Believe it or not, this one's set in outer space. Well, sort of: You'll take control of a ship that you'll fly around a series of planets, which have lots of gigantic rocks rapidly orbiting around them. Your job is to shoot all those rocks to break them up into smaller pieces, then obliterate those pieces and pick up the resulting power-ups to earn high scores and get better weapons. It's all pretty standard stuff for this style of game.
The trick here is that there are different kinds of rocks flying around--regular rocks, ice rocks, and gold rocks--and you'll have three accompanying weapons, each of which is designed to destroy a specific kind of rock. It seemed to us that using the wrong gun on a particular rock would still damage it a little, but not very effectively. So you'll need to be quick on the weapon cycling to rapidly switch to the appropriate offensive method when the game starts throwing different kinds of rocks at you in quick succession. The first few levels we played were pretty mild, though, allowing us to get a feel for the controls. As you might imagine, you move in any direction with the left analog stick and shoot in any direction with the right stick. You also have a screen-clearing bomb and a quick speed boost that you can pop with the shoulder buttons.
Stardust has a simplistic visual style, but it works well for this sort of game, and most importantly it's fast-paced and buttery smooth. The most appealing aspect is the weapon effects, which are brightly colored and appropriately flashy. You'll power those up as you destroy rocks and collect the power-ups associated with each weapon. From what we saw, your weapons mostly get faster and cover a broader area. We only got to try the game for a brief few minutes, but toward the end of our demo the rocks were replaced by swarming mechanical insects, so apparently it won't all be about shooting at inanimate objects. We'll find out more about what's in Super Stardust HD in the near future and pass along the info to you.