Damn.  I really thought I was going to like Astroman a ton.  After all, it’s a Metroid style game, which is my all time favorite genre.  It even looks like Metroid.  Kinda.  Like in a Fisher Price sort of way.  And it has all the stuff you find in these style games, like ability upgrades, health packs, energy packs, and lots of enemies inspired by Metroid.  On top of all that, I got at least a half-dozen fans writing in telling me that it was better than LaserCat.

Astroman is brought to you by the letter "A" and by contributions from people like you!

I tried not to set my expectations too high.  I’ve been disappointed a few times before on here and I always feel that maybe I’m too hard on a game if I expect it not to suck.  And I have to say that Astroman doesn’t completely suck.  It sucks just enough to still work but not be all that, like an off-brand vacuum cleaner.

You play as this dude who has to go around and explore planets for some reason.  If the story was ever explained, I missed it.  Regardless, you travel from planet to planet, looking for various upgrades for yourself and your ship.  There’s nine planets to explore, although there’s only three total environments.  Each is fairly large and full of assorted baddies.  Using your gun, you shoot them, scour each stage for upgrades, and find the exit.

Here’s the problem: it’s boring!   There’s not a very large variety of enemies, and the ones present are rarely threatening.  You have a limited amount of ammo in your gun, but I had no trouble keeping my supply of bullets well stocked.  The upgrades to your character take too long to acquire.  And those are just my minor quibbles.

The big ones are a lot more damning.  Like leaving out a map system for the stages.  That feature would have really cut down on the tedium.  For example, on the 6th planet I had to replay it five times before I found the ship upgrade needed to reach the next three stages.  Most of the stage you have limited visibility, which makes exploration feel more like a chore than an activity one would do for fun.  But I swear I checked out every nook and cranny looking for that damn thruster for my ship and, as it turns out, I passed right by it every time.  It was just easy to miss because you couldn’t see the fucking thing.  Maybe I’m more thick than I previously thought possible, but still I would like to have had a map.

The level hub system can fuck off as well.  You travel from planet to planet using your spaceship.  In order to reach planets four through six, you need to acquire a cannon to shoot away at an asteroid belt.  This takes way too long and if you leave the map screen and come back, so do the asteroids.  This is busy work, the kind your asshole boss assigns you if he feels you’re too happy.  You also die instantly if you touch any of them, or if you get shot down by a pointless UFO that cruises around.  There’s no consequence if that happens.  Hell, it doesn’t even make the asteroids respawn.  It’s just annoying, like if you had to reprogram your toilet every time you wanted to flush it.

Astroman is one of those games where the developers needed someone with a sense of discretion hovering nearby to point out what design choices were bad ideas.  The pacing is all wrong.  It takes too damn long to get cool upgrades to your suit, like the hover function.  The level designs can be annoying, especially the areas where the game is in the dark.  You often can’t tell the background apart from ledges that can be stood on, and end up having to start a tedious climb over again.

So is it fun?  Sometimes it is, most of the time it’s not.  That’s pretty much the best answer I can give.  Astroman does have a lot going for it.  It’s a lengthy and functional shooter that provides a decent challenge and has nice graphics and music.  But it’s often too plodding to really hook you in and the lack of some common-sense mechanics, like maps for levels or the ability to shoot in directions other than straight forward really sink this one.  They had something going here, and a sequel with the right additions could be one of the top games on the marketplace.  Until then, Astroman is about as exciting as water-flavored cotton candy.

Astroman was developed by StarQuail Games

240 Microsoft Points lost their heart to a starship trooper in the making of this review.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

5 Responses to Astroman

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