Deep in the vastness of space, there exists oddly formed arenas shaped by free-floating asteroids. Inside these rocky frames are an odd collection of spike traps, pink-tinged racetracks, laser grids, and even weird, slug-like creatures that will shoot anything in its path. What is the purpose of such anomalies? Is this the latest threat to the human race? Does mankind’s salvation lie with a lone hero that will wade through danger, thick and thin, to save every one of us? The answer....doesn’t matter. StarDrone VR is a virtual reality-based puzzle game in which you guide a drone across different levels collecting stars and avoiding hazards. Simple and effective, the game offers a lot of puzzling fun even in the face of its most devious and dense challenges.
StarDrone VR is all about guiding a small orb-shaped drone through a wide assortment of creatively designed obstacle courses. The overall gimmick is that the player doesn’t have direct control over the drone’s movement. Instead, they must use the physics of momentum to complete an objective which may be to light up stars, collect star bits to form one larger star, or simply reach a marked end zone. To assist the drone in performing these tasks, you’ll need to make use of its tractor beam system by holding down a button on the controller whenever you’re close to floating purple spheres. This locks the drone to the sphere as it flies around it in a stable orbit. Releasing the button will send the drone flying forward where it can interact with other elements of the stage or swing across multiple purple spheres, Spider-Man style. A collection of helpful environmental objects are scattered about the play area and are designed to speed you along. Pinball bumpers, tracks that steer you along a set path, and quick boost jet streams are useful in reaching that last star or propelling you away from danger.
The danger I speak of takes the form of nefarious hazards. Your drone can only sustain so much damage before it's destroyed, triggering a level restart. Expect to find deadly mines, slugs that spit out homing missiles, and evil looking Pac-Man monsters that give chase if you get too close. Navigating these distractions can be tricky considering how little control you have over the small, spherical vessel. Some levels, however, provide a special powerup that turns the drone into a literal space-faring wrecking ball, smashing through comets, mines, and monsters without breaking a sweat. Your ability to stay alive and rack up points determines whether you’ll be rewarded with a bronze, silver, or gold medal for your performance. These achievements are indicated by a trophy counter on the main screen as well as an appropriately colored trim for the stage’s icon on the hexagonal selection map.
StarDrone VR ended up being pretty fun to play. Its single strangest quirk, though, is how it offers absolutely no upfront explanation of how to play the game. Without a tutorial, a general explanation of its mechanics, or even a button configuration screen, I felt left in the lurch and stumbled blindly during the first few levels. I was quick to judge--after all, the game is presented without any publisher or developer logos, making me wonder if someone wasn’t happy with the final product. Just when I was thinking about writing the whole thing off, the gameplay quickly “clicked” and I found myself having a good time working through a truly diverse collection of puzzles. A little direction at the start of the game would have been helpful, though.
With its massive number of creatively designed set pieces, StarDrone VR proved itself to be more fun than I initially gave it credit. The virtual reality element adds a nice sensation of depth to the visual aesthetic, but I never felt the headset was necessary nor the definitive means to play. Replete with puzzles of varying difficulty and scope, StarDrone VR is a fun, pick up and play activity that won’t upset even the most sensitive of VR owners.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.