Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4, iPad 1
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Not too long ago, when it came to handheld gaming, it meant that games were to be played in decadent 4-color grayscale on systems like the Game Boy. Those nostalgic for these 20th century wonders, but afflicted with a bit of the 21st century ADD might find themselves intrigued by OrangePixel's latest retro throwback: Stardash.
Stardash runs players through 40 levels, each of which is a gauntlet of tricky enemy placement and devious platforming segments. Though, the goal is more than just surviving the levels; the job is to collect stars by either completing a level before the clock reaches zero, or to collect all the stars in a level. There are also keys hidden throughout levels for the purpose of unlocking the temple at the end of each world.
The game uses virtual controls, but with only left/right movement buttons and a jump button, everything is very simple. The game is a universal app, though it feels kind of silly to play a game that looks like it's straight out of 1989 on a powerful device with a huge screen like the iPad. The game also supports Joypad for remote control, and the simple controls work well. For a game where death is frequent, thankfully restarts are immediate. This is an element that is key to any trial-based game, that ability to get back in right away.
Many of the keys are hidden behind background walls, and unlike in a similar Game Boy-inspired title, 1-Bit Ninja, this feels more like cheap obfuscation rather than clever level design. Cloud-based saving would be great to restore progress, either through OpenFeint's saves or through iCloud. It is a universal app after all, and those stars were difficult to earn on the iPad! I don't need to earn them again on my iPod touch! The game also annoyingly doesn't support orientation flipping at all.
Those looking for a trial platformer that will give them a taste of handheld gaming back that would devour alkaline batteries with aplomb will find a frustrating yet enjoyable trip down memory lane with Stardash.