Stranded: A Mars Adventure review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Tama Games
Developer: Tama Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No

In a few key ways, Stranded reminds me of Super Blast Deluxe: a game that was clearly made for the Vita, but one whose inspirations are undeniably rooted in one very specific aspect of the past.

Of course, those inspirations are very different. Where Super Blast Deluxe borrowed liberally from the barrel levels of Donkey Kong Country, Stranded feels like the ice levels from Super Mario Bros. 3 stretched out over the entire game.

What’s more, where Super Blast Deluxe was somewhat mediocre, Stranded is quite good. Infuriating at times, to be sure — I don’t know about you, but those ice levels were always my second-least favourite parts of that game (after water levels, naturally) — but good nonetheless.

What makes it good is that the concept is incredibly simple, but it works for what Tama Games are trying to do here. They’re combining the basic parts of a platformer with the essential bit of an endless runner, with the gimmick being that you need to account for slippery surfaces and momentum. You’re timed, and you’re trying to get three stars, and you can turn on a ghost if you want to race yourself.

And that’s more or less it. And, as I said, it all comes together pretty perfectly. The controls, while frustrating at times, work just as they’re supposed to. Nothing seems completely unfair or unrealistic, and the stars give you a good reason to keep going back and trying each level. And to round things off, the game has an excellent score, all sparse and mysterious and space-appropriate.

It’s not a complex game, by any means. But it doesn’t need to be, either. Stranded aims to be a simple little runner/platformer, and it succeeds at that beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Grade: A-