I’d like to think that we’re at a stage with VR now that most games have a reason to actually be, y’know, in VR. More than just “Isn’t this cool in 3D?”, we’re starting to see apps that truly capitalize on what it means to place yourself inside a virtual world, be it through character interactions, sense of place or realistic actions. Even a simple wave shooter can drum up a gut-wrenching sense of pressure that many normal games struggle to replicate.
StarDrone VR doesn’t offer any of that. In fact, it doesn’t even really look that cool in 3D.
Don’t get me wrong, StarDrone VR is a perfectly playable and entertaining arcade puzzle game. It already proved as much when the original Flash game released online years ago and then again on PS3, PS Vita and PS4 (the latter of which, VR support should have really been an add-on for). Though its maps are busy, it boasts a deceptively simple premise: use a single button to hurl a spinning disc through space, collecting little stars that are dotted around a 2D plane. After launching the disc, you use PSVR’s head-tracking to highlight spinning objects that your disc will begin to orbit around at the press and hold of the X button. Take aim once more, let go of the button and you’ll spin off into space again.
Many of the game’s 60+ levels task you with collecting stars as quickly as possible, while a handful of others include special objectives like taking out enemies by activating rocket turrets or collecting fragments of stars to fill a bigger one. There’s fun to be had in trying to nail times in the basic levels, especially as you being to formulate a plan for getting through areas filled with obstacles like mines and spikes in record time and then execute said plan with perfect aim and timing. Large portions of the game have been meticulously designed to encourage a rhythm to your gameplay; follow the set path, get everything right and you’ll be rewarded with a rare sense of satisfaction.
That said, some designs are a little more chaotic. Maps littered with bumpers, for example, only serve to frustrate when there’s only one star left and the seconds are ticking away, while the game can also take the term difficulty spike to a literal place at times. If you crave that kind of pinpoint precision and can accept endless restarts caused by button presses that were a fraction of a millisecond off, then here’s a game for you.
Even at its best, though, StarDrone rarely amounts to anything more than a pleasing time-waster. Its Breakout-style gameplay, while fun, doesn’t reach the all-consuming heights of its more accessible inspirations and its more troubling levels often encouraged me to take a long break more than they did tempt me to take one more go.
And then we get to the VR support which, to be frank, is pointless. Whereas other arcade games like Super Stardust Ultra VR implemented new, if lacking, modes that tried to make the most of the PSVR support, StarDrone VR is still the exact same game with very little reason to be inside your headset. There’s no new form of interaction; you play the game in the exact same way you would the standard version aside from occasionally using head-tracked controls. Its levels lie flat, never really popping unless a shard of broken bomb floats past you (which I only saw once). It’s nice to be able to look around levels in hopes to locating stars that you’ve missed but, ultimately, this feels like a launch game that missed the mark by well over a year.
If you’ve never played StarDrone before and quite like the sound of 60 levels of moderately entertaining arcade puzzle action that plays on pinball then the VR version is a harmless way to experience it. If, however, you’re looking for something that feels like it truly belongs in this medium, this is not the puzzle game you’re looking for. The VR support is almost entirely without merit, answering the call for content on a platform that’s no longer in desperate need of it.
StarDrone VR is available now on PlayStation VR fo $7.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.