Super Stardust HD Review
by Gauss

Basic Information:
Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
North American Release Date: June 15, 2007
European Release Date: June 15, 2007
Trophies: Yes, Patched

Super Stardust HD is a modern take on the old-school shooters, what has been referred to as the "dual-stick" shooters due to the fact that it uses the analog sticks as its primary controls. The goal is simple: string together multipliers to score as many points as possible each level by destroying rocks as they try to bombard the "planetary shield" protecting a planet and enemies as they try to stop you.

The gameplay of Super Stardust is as intuitive as it gets. One analog stick moves your ship, the other analog stick shoots your weapon in the direction you are moving the stick. The shoulder buttons switch weapons ( or ) deploy bombs and boost ( and ). The way it is designed it is quick to pickup, difficult to master as there is one big element kept from old-school shooters: the skill/difficulty curve.

Now this is not a difficult game to progress through, most people will be able to get through all the worlds and bosses without stumbling much... That doesn't mean they will score or be able to keep their multipliers. That element is where the skill comes in, and the way this game will keep you playing to beat your own best is where the skill comes in. To truly make it up there on the leaderboards you need to master the very simple controls and hone your reaction time to keep your mutliplier going world after world after world.

You have three primary weapons: Gold Melter, Rock Crusher, and Ice Splitter. Each weapon has a type of asteroid its effective against (hint: its in the weapons name), and behaves differently. Gold Melter gives you a constant stream of energy, Rock Crusher shoots out energy orbs over a wide area, but is short range. The Ice Splitter shoots out lasers in a short spread, but has a very long range. Each is capable of being upgraded to +300% damage by getting power-ups dropped by enemies and asteroids.

Lastly you have two secondary weapons: Boost and Bombs. Boosts give you a giant burst of speed in the direction you are facing which destroys all the asteroids and enemies in your path. Bombs clear out everything on your half of the planet.

There are two DLC packs released for the game as well. One is a Solo add-on pack which adds various survival modes such as Bomber, where you can only use bombs, and Endless, where you fight endless waves of enemies. The other is the Team pack, which adds the local multiplayer modes.

The singleplayer mode of Super Stardust is its primary attraction, basically your entire "adventure" destroying asteroids and punk-ass-bitchbots is split between 5 worlds, each with 5 phases and a boss. Your multiplier builds as you kill enemies and asteroids without dying, and at the end of the level you get a score for the amount of rock you vaporized and the number of robots who ate your energy multiplied by your multiplier.

The levels are nice, varied, and have a great progression in difficulty, with each planet playing off the last. It makes for a great "training" exercise to keep boosting your high score, because as you master each level, the next one becomes easier.

If you buy the Solo pack you get a nice set of modes added as well. They are all "survivor" style games. Bomber is essentially fighting wave after wave of rocks with only your bombs available to you. Endless takes the singleplayer mode and puts you on one planet with endless waves of increasingly difficult baddies while getting "nukes" which when destroyed clears the entire planet of baddies. Survival is a cruel mode which challenges players to see how long they can survive as pieces of the planet are blocked off by indestructible objects. Finally there is Time Attack which challenges you to complete the game in the shortest time possible as opposed to getting the highest score.

NOTE: You need the Team pack for multiplayer.

The Multiplayer for this game is not really a big draw for this game. There is no online multiplayer to speak of, unless you count leaderboards (which I don't). There is local, split-screen co-op and deathmatch.

This is really the only area of disappointment for me, while the Team Pack is not a pricely piece of DLC for the game, just simply adding local multiplayer and ship-customization it seems a bit short-sighted. It would have been nice to play online.

I can't take off too many "points" though, since these games aren't classically online MP games like FPSs. Super Stardust is meant to be an arcade style game, and that is local MP at heart. It just would have been nice to have the option.

Super Stardust HD is a beautiful game. Its colorful and constructed perfectly. The environments you fly in are nice and varied, with each world having its own distinctive visual style, and the enemies are all creatively designed. From a strict visual standpoint this is a great game to really show off your HD TV.

Whats more is the sound, this is a game which allows you to use a custom soundtrack with full 5.1 support. Being able to hear all the blasts and explosions of the game behind the music of your choice just heightens the fun.

Everything about this game, technically, is perfectly executed. The controls are tight, everything is perfectly responsive and intuitive. There really isn't much to say about it, particularly for a PSN game.

On the whole the trophies for Super Stardust are pretty average in difficulty, although this game is a notoriously difficult 100%-er. It features two trophies among the most difficult trophies in any PSN game to date: Late Boomer and Shock and Awe.

Gameplay: 10/10
- The gameplay here is easy to pick up, difficult to master. Perfect dual-stick shooter, and still the best in the genre.

Singleplayer: 8/10
- The singleplayer is simple and straightforward: Make it to the end of the level and kill the boss. There are 5 worlds with 5 phases to play through, and an extra set of challenges if you buy the solo pack.

Multiplayer: 6/10
- The multiplayer in this game is hit hard by the lack of any online play. It's local only. Multiplayer should be the reason you consider this game.

Technical: 10/10
- Super Stardust is both beautiful and perfectly executed. For a PSN game, it's everything you'd ask for.

Overall: 9.25/10 Brilliant
Super Stardust HD, to this day, remains a gem in the PSN. It comes highly recommended from this reviewer to anyone who is a fan of the old-school shooter genre. Everything from the skill required to get through the game to the upgradeable weapons is intact, and all wrapped in a beautiful package. To be frank, this is one of the best dual-stick shooters this generation.