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Super Stardust Delta preview: Tilt to live


The first portable variant of Housemarque's stellar twin-stick shooter, Super Stardust, had to make do with a fifty percent reduction in analog control when it arrived on PSP. Super Stardust Delta is much better off on the superior PlayStation Vita hardware, though the authenticity of the game's asteroid slaughter feels a little muddled by excess. Like most launch titles, it's adamant about using every available feature, even if they don't necessarily augment the experience.

Gallery: Super StarDust Delta (PS Vita) | 16 Photos

One of the first things you learn about the Vita hardware is that it's very easy to touch the rear touch panel by accident. Doing so in Super Stardust Delta activates an on-screen marker that corresponds to the position of your finger on the panel, and then creates a short-lived singularity when you lift it. It's an intuitive way to suck in orbiting opponents, just as long as you're deliberate about positioning your digits before you need a black hole bailout.

Less successful is a new on-screen slider -- adjusted by touching the right side of the Vita's gorgeous screen -- that can increase the distance of your shots at the expense of their effectiveness. Using it feels like touch-screen busywork, for what seems to introduce a bit of minor management into a frantic game that doesn't need it. Shaking the system to detonate a screen-clearing bomb is less obtrusive, but still borders a little too much on launch-game gimmickry.

Super Stardust Delta's best addition is a subtle one: tilting the system slightly adjusts the game's top-down camera angle, allowing you to peer over the planet's horizon without losing focus on the onslaught of rocks and aliens. This feels natural and immediately useful (especially if you want to make sure you're not about to boost your ship into even more trouble), and the screen's viewing angle is good enough to support it.

When the game ships alongside the Vita, it'll contain new levels, a couple of minigames, as well as all the content from both the PlayStation 3 and PSP versions. The smooth framerate exhibited best by the former version has stayed intact, though the number and quality of the asteroid fragments and particles are clearly reduced (at least in the E3 2011 build). Multiplayer won't make it, but there will be online leaderboards in the final package.

Thanks to the Vita's twin analog sticks, which are a bit shallow but far more comfortable than the PSP's sliding disc, Super Stardust Delta feels right at home on a platform designed to work while you're out and about. It's clearly a good fit for Vita -- though I'd venture the opinion that not all of Vita is a good fit for Super Stardust.

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