Day 157: Astroman

Posted: 2011/04/15 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #157, and today’s game is “Astroman”.

Astroman was released to very little fanfare, but has the potential to be a cult classic. It certainly deserves to be that, if not more, because it’s a tremendously good game and deserving of accolades. You play as an astronaut, exploring and platforming your way across an alien landscape trying to find the missing pieces of your ship which were spread across the planets of a solar system in a space accident. Tremendous variety, colourful graphics, and more make this an unmissable purchase for platform game fans.

First, from the developer (StarQuail Games):

“Explore vast alien landscapes! Zap all of the aliens! Hey, they were blocking your view.”

One great element of the game is that you have options as to what order you visit the planets in, finding objects in one to get past otherwise impassible objects in another. The game is improved by its non-linearity, which encourages more experimentation and exploration than a lot of platform games offer. This does mean a bit of backtracking at times, but it worked for Halo: Combat Evolved and it works here as well.

While the planets all feel suitably alien compared to what we know on Earth, I could have done with them feeling a little different compared to each other. Alien lifeforms are re-used over all nine of the planets you will visit in the game’s solar system, but perhaps they live in a commonwealth akin to the Twelve Colonies in Battlestar Galactica. Differences between the environments themselves are also relatively minor. The level design itself has more than enough variety to make up for this, thankfully, with some levels plunging you into darkness, and others having you in something akin to a rail car, and more.

Astroman gains new abilities throughout the game, and the ability to visit planets in the order you choose could have made it difficult to ramp up the difficulty to compensate for your newfound powers. The game compensates for this by grouping the planets into threes, and upping the difficulty level every time you move on to a new set of three planets.

In an era where platformers are so often puzzle platformers, this is more of a traditional run/jump/explore game and is a refreshing example of back to the future gaming. Also unusual is that Astroman has a limited amount of ammo, though plenty is to be found as you explore the alien environments. Animation is well done, and some lighting effects are impressive. The audio is a perfect complement to what’s visually on display, adding up to strong presentation across the board.

By any rights I shouldn’t be able to review this game today, it should be in the top 50 being purchased by thousands of people a day. Sadly for the developer, but luckily for me, this 5 star game has (for the moment, at least) dropped off the top downloaded and allowed me to review it. For 240 points you get to enjoy one of the best that the XBLIG channel has to offer, with music that you’ll probably enjoy (or at least not find grating on you) and extremely tight control. I heartily recommend Astroman for fans of classic platformers as diverse as Super Mario Bros. and Metroid, as Astroman hits all the right notes while offering hours and hours of gameplay.

Click here to download “Astroman”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.



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