If you were expecting Super Stardust Ultra to be a brand new version of Stardust built from the ground-up for PS4, then you will be sorely disappointed. Super Stardust HD was a game which cemented itself in PlayStation history as one of the first and most popular PSN titles, as well as being first in a few other categories with trophies and 3D support.
Now, while it’s not the first remake of this kind this generation, it’s perhaps the most lazily executed, with Ultra bringing few extra pieces of content and barely upgrading the original, eight year old game. If you’ve played Super Stardust HD on PS3, then you’ll feel an inescapable sense of déjà vu as you play Super Stardust Ultra on PS4; it’s essentially the same title.
I know Super Stardust HD like the back of my hand – the enemy types, boss patterns, and strategies for each planet. Back in the day, I spent more time than I’d like to admit attempting to get that 10x multiplier trophy (and I never did get it), so to come to this game and find that the new content is thin on the ground is extremely disappointing.
Now, if you’ve never played Super Stardust HD, then this is the game in a complete package, with a few additional features. While the graphics are noticeably dated, with some rather low-polygon models, it’s still a fantastic game in its own right, and there’s plenty of longevity to be had. If you own a Vita though then you’ll probably find a better game in Super Stardust Delta.
However, for the target market, the people who love the series and want a new Stardust title, it’s just a disappointing, false entry into the series which feels lazily executed. For example, let’s take a look at the new content; in terms of new game modes, there’s Blockade, which sees a constant barrage of rocks spawning behind you, making the game a Snake-like affair. And… that’s it.
The first seven modes remain the same as they were in the PS3 title, and while “newly designed” planets had been teased, you’ll find that this means the planetary backdrops and names have been altered – this is one place where the game actually looks better – rather than the way the levels play out actually being redesigned. Everything else, including enemy patterns and phases, remains unchanged from Super Stardust HD.
There are some new social features, including challenges which can be sent to your friends via PSN and an interactive streaming option. The latter is interesting, essentially allowing those in the stream to either help or hinder your progress by sending in varying degrees of enemy attacks or dropping in power-ups and other bonuses. This works well if you’ve got plenty of people willing to watch and vote, but leaves much to be desired otherwise.
It’s just such a strange change of tact for Sony, a company who has revelled in cross-buy promotions and game upgrades, particularly with digital titles. Look at Flower, Escape Plan, and Sound Shapes when those made the move over to PS4: if you owned those on PS3, then you’d automatically get the upgraded PS4 versions at no extra cost.
Then again, another Housemarque title – Dead Nation – made the jump to the new generation with its Apocalypse Edition and didn’t feature cross-buy with the PS3 title, but it did feel like much more of an improvement in terms of visuals, gameplay, and game modes than Super Stardust Ultra does.
There’s just not a lot to go on here – a platinum trophy, one new mode, interactive streaming, and that’s about it – and if you’ve played Super Stardust HD and bought this without warning, then you’ll likely feel cheated, and that’s something which the new planetary backdrops really aren’t going to help with.