When I initially heard about this game, my gut reaction was more lukewarm than a forgotten cup of tea. The silly bots had first appeared in Playroom and they were nothing but a cute, throwaway novelty. Not for one second did I think they warranted their own game.
Even when I had an opportunity to play Astro Bot at EGX 2018, I still refrained from sampling the averageness it looked to possess. Then it did indeed hit the market and it earned glowing reviews from all corners.
I wanted a new, top-tier VR title and took a stab in the dark on it. Boy am I glad I did.
From the offset, the premise of the game is made clear. Nasty alien invades, smashes up lord god-tier bot and steals his gadgets. Plot wise, it’s on par with any Mario game. Nasty dinosaur-turtle invades, steals princess and runs off with her. Protagonist has to travel through different worlds to perform a heroic rescue operation.
Astro Bot operates on the same varied principle. You take our painfully adorable bot, Astro, through 5 different worlds, all populated with different enemies, obstacles, themes and motifs; all the while collecting some fun, distracting collectables.
Each level has 8 different bots for you to rescue and also a well-concealed chameleon somewhere amidst the trials and tribulations of each level. Some levels are breathtaking and it doesn’t take long to realise how much detail has been put into them as you notice additional details in them; despite the fact Astro will never even set foot near them.
There’s no comprising the game’s quality in order to save on space and improve the frame rate etc. In fact, I never had any such issues, never had any calibration issues and the performance was generally smoother than warm butter.
Thanks to the stupendous use of VR here, which is far from a gimmick here, these collectables are actually fun to find. So often in this day and age collectables are just haphazardly thrown into a game with little more than “because we can” behind it. Artificially extending its lifespan and serving next to no purpose.
You do need a small quota of the bots in order to progress with the game, but it’s minimal. But you’re depriving yourself of content if you just go for the bare minimum. The bots can be anywhere, you can look over the edge of a cliff and you’ll see one trapped a long way down, you may have to stand up a tad and see the troubled blighter hanging from something. They’re even in places you didn’t know existed, hence the urgency to engage Indiana mode.
It’s testing to find them all, and sometimes it’s even more testing to find the chameleon. It’s virtually invisible, save for its eyes. But once the game recognises that you’re looking at it, it takes a couple of seconds and it becomes your treasure to keep.
It’s also quite important that you keep an eye out for these elusive shape-shifters as each one you find unlocks a challenge level. In addition to the 26 levels, there is also the possibility to do 26 challenge levels too.
You don’t need to do the maths to realise that this is a fully-fledged title stacked to the rafters with content.
The robustness of the game play is so satisfying. Each jump is weighted perfectly allowing for seamless platforming, the necessity to look up high and time your times using depth perception is inventive. The emphasis is most certainly on running and jumping, given how the only controls, apart from the touch pad, you need are X to jump and  to attack.
Movement is tight, flows so well and I just never got bored. On top of that, every level felt interesting and had its own individual character and flavours.
For instance, Astro could be assisted by a titan-sized version of a bot to move things for you in one level, another one will see you forging a path through lava; or even using your controller to shine a torch and reveal an obscured path in a spooky-dooky haunted level.
The controller is very much a tool to use as it can be become a rapid fire gun, a water cannon, a grappling hook and even a makeshift shuriken launcher of death.
Each world traditionally ends with a formidable, formulaic boss. It’s in VR where these really shine. One particular foe battles you whilst you’re out in the middle of the sea, and this rather toothy chap looks super-imposing. You can’t help but marvel at the sheer scope of the battle.
Sound check. That’s all spot on too? Awesome. The music is never annoying and never gets repetitive. A sign of a good game. It’s solid all-around and a couple of pieces stuck in my head for a while; a forgotten art in modern gaming. It’s not quite Aerith’s theme god bless her soul, but it’s clear that effort was put into it.
Even after completing all the aforementioned levels, I was still found myself amused by the personality of the game and the intricate touches that add to its charm. If you make Astro look up at you then he’ll wave at you. If you’re underwater and Astro gets to close to you, then he’ll squish to your VR mask…and then smile and wave at you.
He’s a walking advert for Madagascar.
If all this content wasn’t enough, then you can reap the rewards from your adventuring exploits on an optional ship area. Accessible from the main menu, you’ll be warped into a small room within the ship and be joined by any bots that you’ve rescued. Rescue all 200+ of the little menaces and you can hit them, throw a beach ball for them to chase, hit them, make them jump off a trampoline and even hit them!
Additionally, each level is littered with a pirate’s haul worth of gold and coins that you need to collect. Well, you don’t NEED to collect them, but having them will allow you to have a go at the holy claw machine packing goodies.
Inside this beast is a whole host of collectable balls containing concept designs and statues of enemies, bosses, weapons, locations etc. Even if you’re not entirely fussed about seeing the behind the scenes element, it’s still more stuff to accomplish and the inner-perfectionist in you will make you want to do it. Don’t lie to yourself. You’ll do it.
Between the 50+ levels of gameplay, the exquisite game design, the replayability, the sound design and much more; I really don’t see how this is anything but a complete game. Colourful environments, more charm than Robin Williams’ portrayal of the genie and a darn good time.
This is a system seller and proof that VR is more than just shooting galleries and roller coaster rides. Let’s have more of this in the future please.
– 10/10 –