June 21, 2007 - As you may or may not already know, http://ps3.ign.com/objects/898/898635.html - the latest shooter to hit Sony's PlayStation Network - started life back on the Amiga in 1993. Ordinarily, this is where we'd impress you with our extensive, retrospective videogames knowledge, revealing - with unfeasibly smug glee - every minute, trivial fact we can muster from the depths of our sizeable brains.
To be honest though, we'd never even heard of Super Stardust till the PSN version popped into the public domain. Take a bow then Wikipedia - and the rest of you can look as appalled as you like. Coming fresh to the series though, as many PS3 owners will likely do too, it's a genuinely pleasant surprise to discover an absolute gem of a shooter here. If easy comparisons are your bag, Super Stardust HD is, in essence, Asteroids with a handful of Geometry Wars knobs stuck on.
Enemies have a nasty habit of homing in on you in huge numbers.
Levels are played out hovering over the atmosphere of one of five different planets, each consisting of five 'phases' and unlocked by successful completion of the previous set of levels. Generally speaking, each phase sees you gradually annihilating the tumbling mass of rocks which hurl themselves toward the planet surface, splintering into smaller and speedier chunks as you let rip with your arsenal of weapons. Once the debris is clear, an additional round of enemies appears before you're whisked to the next phase. Finally, the fifth and last phase on each planet sees you facing off against a tougher end boss, each with traditional attack patterns and weak spots.
Super Stardust puts on an amazing light show at times.
On the weapons front, you've got a small yet progressively more powerful range of destructive machinations - Rock Crusher, Ice Splitter and Gold Melter - all of which can be upgraded gradually by collecting power-ups hidden inside glowing green fragments of shattered asteroid detritus. Most similarities between Super Stardust HD and Geometry Wars - aside from the focus on accumulating massive scores (by acquiring multipliers) for upload on a global leader board - come from the control set-up. As with Bizarre Creations' revered shooter, the left analogue controls your ship's movement while directional firing utilises the right stick.
However, unlike Geometry Wars, Super Stardust's action isn't limited by the boundaries of your TV screen. You've complete freedom to roam the entire surface of the globe, chasing asteroids and enemies as everything whirls disorientatingly around you. We actually prefer this approach to Geometry Wars' grid-based play, with Super Stardust HD's intense action certainly benefiting from the relentless, uninterrupted flow of movement.
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