ASTRO: The Beginning (PC) Review with stream
Hey, it is a new shooter
Levels are way too long
Each stage is slowly paced
2D side scrolling shooters are kind of the entry point for many game designers. It is a genre that has had a solid foundation to reference for over 40 years. There have been slight variations, Rez and Ikugura come to mind, but the core remains the same. This is important to bring up, because even while ASTRO: The Beginning is entirely functional and playable, the game itself misses on so many of the key marks that it only ever comes out boring.
Take the Gradius series, for example. Each game has roughly 10 levels, each visually different from the last in such a way that the player is able to visually reference their progress–you can get a sense of where in any level, or the game as a whole simply by either what is happening on screen or from the layout and design of the stage. Then compare that to ASTRO: The Beginning; a game gives no indication on where the player is, how long they have been there, and lulls them into a sense of never ending tedium.
The first time I played ASTRO I didn’t manage to get to the boss of stage one, not because the game was difficult–it isn’t. I was in the first area so long that the simple assumption was that was all the game was going to be. After several insanely long minutes of play I simply turned the game off, it felt more like a work in progress demo build then something someone would ask for money for.
During a second attempt the first boss was reached, in roughly the same amount of time that a standard shooter would be moving the player to the second or third boss. This perfectly encapsulates the issues with this title, it doesn’t feel like anyone ever played it. Overly long levels, no checkpoints, no real challenge, completely randomized power-ups, and no sense of progression make the game a test of will and determination to play.
This is, of course, before bringing in the various bugs found as well. The game defaults to, what I think, is Russian. Most PC games either default to English, or at least ask the player what language they speak by showing a flag when the title starts. While this is a mild annoyance it shows the complete lack of knowledge of how modern titles work. This simply becomes an overwhelming theme the closer every part is looked at.
ASTRO: The Beginning is functional, which is the best thing that can be cobbled together from the wreckage. It fails because it is boring, and no one on it paid enough attention to what made previous titles in the genre worth anyone’s attention.