Which is a shame, because the actual gameplay's a clever puzzle based twist on classic arcade shooters. And the soundtrack's bangin'.
Shall we deal with the bad first? There's a lot we like about Stellar Attack but there's one crippling problem that has hindered countless Playstation Minis and PSP games before it: the controls feel wrong. Look, Stellar Attack is an old-school arcade space shooter that tries to mimic the feel of classic space romps such as Asteroids. That means there's quite a deliberate, loose feel to movement as you thrust your ship about the levels. Sadly - it just doesn't feel right. We've tried playing the game with the PSP's D-Pad, the PS3's D-Pad, the PSP's analogue nub and the PS3's analogue stick but none of them feel as they should.
There are two different control mechanics: Vector and Direct. Vector draws inspiration from games such as Asteroids, and has you hitting left and right to rotate the ship, up to thrust forwards and down to thrust backwards. You can also use the shoulder buttons to thrust left and right - if you've not already careered off into the completely wrong direction that is. The game suffers from the problems Gravity Crash had, in that it all just feels archaic and old. Geometry Wars and PixelJunk Shooter have changed the way we think about arcade shooters, particularly from a controls perspective. Stellar Attack's problems are emphasised by the clunkiness of the PSP's control inputs, though it doesn't feel much better with the Playstation 3's control pad. The Direct movement option is an improvement over the Vector controls, but you'll still find your ship sailing off into directions you'd rather it wouldn't.
We tried to muddle through our issues with the controls because Stellar Attack is a good game. And while we could never get our ship to operate in the way we wanted, we were still able to appreciate the game's strengths.
Instead of simply blasting multiple repetitive objects, Stellar Attack has you shooting four different coloured orbs. In order to increase your multiplier, you'll need to hit the orbs with corresponding bullets. Each of the Playstation's face buttons represent a different coloured bullet. So long as you're hitting the right orbs with the right bullets your multiplier will increase. It's an awesome mechanic, though its difficulty is perpetuated by the shoddy controls. Once you've removed each of the orbs, you'll be tasked with taking down a turret which, throughout, has been trying to blast you to smithereens. Levels obviously increase in difficulty as you play, with high-scores being the prime objective.
There are three different game modes: Modern which kits you with a recharging shield; Retro which gives you multiple lives but no shield, and; Attack which is a bit of a combination of both modes. Attack includes a timer, which counts down considerably each time you die. When the timer reaches zero, it's game up.
All these modes are punctuated by a fantastic, vivid art-style and a great soundtrack. Indeed, Stellar Attack's a good game - but it would be so much better if the controls were more considerate. If you can somehow find a way to get past them, then all power to you. We wished we could.