It says much about the perception of Vita’s place in the market that StarDrone Extreme’s original 79p level-skip option should prove so startling. On iOS, such features are commonplace, but the instant switch to the PlayStation Store upon pressing the button generated a sense of unease that ultimately led to the developer making it a free download. As Sony attempts to negotiate the monetisation minefield, this may be something Vita owners have to get used to; perhaps the pill would have gone down easier in a better game.
The psychological barrier perhaps shouldn’t have been so high, as StarDrone Extreme does a passable impression of an iOS title. Exclusively touch controlled, it sees you propel a drone around courses via a series of beacons, which, when tapped, drag your craft into a sluggish spin, the exit point determining its new trajectory. The goal varies between stages: sometimes you’ll need to reach the end within a certain time, while others ask you to collect all the stars within. You may need to collect star pieces to open the exit portal, or key cards to unlock gates; whatever the objective, you’ll spend a worrying amount of time squinting at the tiny map in the bottom-left of the screen to work out where you need to go next. At least the rear-touch option alleviates the problem of digits obscuring the screen, though when several beacons are present you’ll often find yourself dragged toward the wrong one.
It purports to be a cross between pinball and puzzle game, but lacks the bells and whistles or tactile joy of the former, while the conundrums are nothing more than busywork. On the larger courses it feels aimless as you float between beacons, while others are so tightly packed with hazards and enemies that you’ll soon be grateful for that level skip. It does at least mirror pinball's caprice, though only in its inconsistent physics which see you bounce off walls and ice blocks at random angles. On the later levels in particular, this will often see you ricochet into mines or spikes, the latter resulting in instant death on Hard mode. Vita may well benefit from the presence of titles that would fit comfortably on an Apple device, but StarDrone Extreme is a reminder that not all apps are created equal.