Retro app Star Duster is a rare Apple Watch game that's actually worth playing

Star Duster app screenshot
(Image credit: Erik Hallgren)
Star Duster

Star Duster app icon

(Image credit: Erik Hallgren)

WatchOS ($9.95 / £9.99)

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As great as a device as the Apple Watch is, you won’t win any arguments for claiming it’s a genuine platform for gaming.

The combination of the digital crown and dinky touchscreen hardly makes for a perfect control system, with the scarcity of gaming titles, let alone good ones, on the WatchOS store attesting to its unsuitability.

Nevertheless, seek and you shall find, as retro collect-em-up Star Duster shows that the Watch can provide a decent distraction for those times when you’re iPhone has ran out of juice.

With its looks seemingly inspired by those early 80s LCD games made by the likes of Tomy, Grandstand and Nintendo’s Game&Watch series, the game plays somewhat similarly to Atari classic Tempest with you controlling a space craft using the digital crown as you jet around the circular playing field.

Space junk game isn't rubbish

Your job is to collect space junk while trying to avoid obstacles, beams and blocking walls. Things start off at a relatively pedestrian pace, but the number of objects for you to negotiate and the speed at which they arrive quickly ramps up the action to comical levels.

There are two game modes on offer – one level-based while the other is lives-based, with different challenges for both, plus a high score table.

With some authentically bleepy monotone intro music and sparse effects, coupled with a choice of nostalgia-inspiring skins for the playing area, Star Duster is clearly aimed at players of a certain vintage, but there’s enough chaotic gameplay here to have younger gamers more used to more contemporary kicks twiddling that dial.

Simplistic, yet deviously addictive with that just one-more-turn playability, Star Duster offers a quick blast of fun as well as offering a use for your Apple Watch beyond checking what time it is and just how many calories you’ve burnt.


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Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist.  He started out as a music writer in the late 1990s, before moving to the Daily Mirror to become the newspaper’s technology editor, during which time he wrote a weekly column that saw him chart the boom of consumer tech and gaming as well as the resurrection and rise of Apple Inc.  He has also served as editor of and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards.