Stardash Review

Stardash is a 2D platformer that’s about as basic as they come, but it distinguishes itself in two major ways. First, it has the pixelated, monochromatic graphics of a Game Boy game, which will give you warm fuzzy feelings if you grew up gaming in the ‘˜80s or ‘˜90s. Second, it sports a level of difficulty that borders on sadistic, which is great if you enjoy an intense challenge or if you just really hate yourself.

The game doesn’t introduce anything new to the world of 2D platforming– in fact, it does substantially less than lots of modern platformers do– but it’s still a heck of a fun ride. All you get are buttons to run left and right, and to jump. There are no power-ups or anything fancy. Just you, an environment that’s full of pits, and oodles of enemies that kill you with a single hit. The one modern concession in Stardash is that you have unlimited lives. No checkpoints, though.

Death becomes him.

Even though there’s hardly anything to it, Stardash is great fun. The basic run-and-jump formula of 2D platforming is well represented here, with tight controls and a variety of enemies. The graphics are retro-fantastic, and the music is as bleepy and bloopy as you please. Each of the 40 short levels can be completed at your leisure, or you can try to finish within a certain time limit or having collected all of the coins to earn stars. You might even find some hidden temple keys that unlock extra levels. It’s also a universal app, and it looks great on the iPad.

That said, the game is definitely not for everyone. Oftentimes playing the game feels like an exercise in futility. Bad guys will pop out of blocks or blast into you from offscreen without warning, obstacles require millisecond timing, and the difficulty ramps up with savage quickness. The music is fast and your character runs at a speedy clip, so there’s a Sonic-like urge to try to sprint ahead and hope for the best. This is a terrible strategy. The difficulty is pretty similar to what you’d find toward the end of a game like Mos Speedrun or Super Meatboy, but it ramps up quicker.

We’ve managed to keep ourselves from breaking our iOS devices in frustration while playing Stardash– if only just barely– and mostly had fun playing it. If you like your games with old-school aesthetics and maniacal difficulty, Stardash has you covered.

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