Super Stardust is becoming a bit of a new PlayStation hardware tradition. Ever since the venerable Super Stardust HD, the Housemarque developed arcade shooter has appeared on every Sony system released – including the PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and now PlayStation VR. But is the concept strong enough to withstand such a dizzying number of re-releases?
Oh, it definitely is: Super Stardust, we'd argue, is one of the greatest arcade games of the past decade, and that hasn't changed. But this virtual reality version of the title is what we like to call in the industry as launch fodder; it's a perfectly acceptable iteration of the spherical shmup, but it brings so little of value to the figurative table that it feels like it exists solely to make up the numbers.
The Trophy list alone should ring alarm bells, as if you already own PS4 re-release Super Stardust Ultra, you'll already have a handful of the gongs. That's because this is the exact same game that released in 2015, albeit repurposed so that you can play it in virtual reality. The camera perspective is zoomed a little so that you have to look around the planet that you're orbiting, but expect the same boulder blasting gameplay that you're already familiar with – albeit rendered in stereoscopic 3D.
The new Invasion Mode is the headline here, then – a new option designed exclusively for virtual reality. Here you're brought down to a muddy-looking planet's surface where you're tasked with blasting enemies from the cockpit of your Lemmings decorated spacecraft. You aim using your head, which – as is the case in RIGS: Mechanized Combat League – is disorientating, but it all works fine enough for the few minutes that you'll bother playing it.
The problem is that it's just not Super Stardust; the scoring system and phase-based structure is still intact, but it lacks that Housemarque magic, and feels turgid as a result. And ultimately, what you're left with here is a virtual reality version of a game that you've already played to death and a tailor-made mode that loses its lustre within minutes. There's nothing inherently bad about any of it, but it feels like a low-effort attempt that exists solely because it can.
Super Stardust will always be an outstanding arcade game, but this particular version is a tired attempt at repurposing an ageing experience for yet another PlayStation platform. The classic gameplay options function fine in virtual reality but offer nothing new, while the added PlayStation VR-exclusive Invasion Mode fails to grasp what's great about the original experience. It's one of those launch games that's just kinda… there.