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Astronot review (iOS / Universal)

June 25, 2012

“Spaceman, I always wanted you to go into space, man”

10 word description: Explore the uncharted planet’s surface and discover what lies beneath. (Borrowed [and slightly edited] from app store description).

Early on, you find this yellow item which permanently improves your jumping ability

10 word review: Ultra-retro Metroid style explore-em up. Prehistoric yet essential.

He most certainly does not come in peace

You will like this if you enjoy: Proper video games. Ok, I’ll qualify that. Proper video games from the early 80s. NES games. Spectrum games (Jet Set Willy, Dynamite Dan, Pyjamarama etc.). Metroid style games.

That isn’t a dead end, it’s just the game’s way of telling you to turn around

The good news: Astronot nails the look, feel and almost total lack of any kind of help or guidance that epitomised platform adventure games from the golden age. Exploring, figuring things out for yourself and accomplishing undisclosed objectives is as much fun here as it always was. The controls and character movement are fine, although more on this very shortly. Excellent retro tunes and sound effects.

Small yellow spheres are hidden all over the world. Each one will permanently increase your maximum health

The bad news: (I’m laughing as I write this because it really does not matter at all). The controls take up a large percentage of the screen and the playable area is further shrunk by a large border making the whole thing resemble a Game and Watch. If there was an option to swap the coloured border for a plain black one, I’d take it.

This is how it looks on the iPad

Arcadelife verdict: Quite fantastic, really. I know I sound like I’m doing an Emperor’s New Clothes review here, pointing at something with 2 frames of animation and the colour palette of Clive Sinclair’s underpants and going, “ooh, it’s brilliant because it’s retro”, but it is. If you wanted a definitive example of “gameplay over graphics”, Astronot would be it.

This giant space slug was my first boss fight

Initially, the unnecessarily reduced game screen and the huge buttons look like a joke, but the gameplay and the way those screen-dominating red buttons actually work almost instantly remove all misgivings and transport you to a much better place.

Lava (the red enemy is standing in it) will instantly kill you, no matter how much health you have

Guidance is virtually non-existent, rudimentary at best. If you want to know what a switch does, try activating it. Of course, nobody has told you how to activate a switch, or even if switches exist in this game, so you’re on your own. And there’s no map. Boo hoo, better get your memory working or maybe even draw one yourself.

Collect all the green squares! Why? I don’t know, just collect them all!

If you like this game, and I know a great many gamers will, you will also want to check out Mystery of the Japanese Werewolf. Very similar in concept to Astronot with more of a 16-bit than an 8-bit aesthetic.

Here’s a tip. Do not jump down there…

If you’re still not convinced about Astronot, or you think you might not be able to cope with the extreme retro experience, try the lite version first.

Arcadelife rating

Please note – the Visuals rating for Astronot is based on how well it imitates similarly themed games from the 1980s. The next Infinity Blade this most certainly is not!

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 86/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Wade McGillis website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
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