Developer: Japan Studio (Asobi! Team)
Platforms: PS VR
Rating: E for Everyone 10+
The Astro Bots have been around since 2013, making their first appearance when The Playroom, a collection of mini-games, was released on the PS4. The cuteness of these tiny robots continued with the 2016 release of the The Playroom VR. Finally with the release of ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission, they have their own full game for players to enjoy.
Japan Studio (Asobi! Team) has given us a special game. The game is fun, creative, and full of great game design. This year has been great for PlayStation fans with games like God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Shadow of Colossus, and Spider-Man, but for me, ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission, might be my favorite Sony exclusive to come out this year.
ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission contains mild violence. In a given scenario, Astro will punch or jump on enemies which causes them to explode. In addition, there are small amounts of crude humor involving bird droppings. Otherwise, ASTRO BOT is a game that can be enjoyed by all people ages 10 and up.
Overall, ASTRO BOT is a positive game. You play as Astro, a small robot sent to rescue his friends and repair his ship. Simply put, the game is cute, whimsical, and a delight to play, not containing any questionable content.
ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission begins with the bot’s PS VR-shaped spacecraft being attacked by an alien. The creature destroys the ship, steals the headset, and scatters the bots and pieces of the vessel across five planets. This is when our hero Astro Bot rises up to the challenge to save his friends, defeat the alien, and reassemble his ship. For Astro Bot to do this he must battle his way through intense levels of platforming, fight gigantic bosses, and terrain his way through colorful and dangerous worlds.
In ASTRO BOT, there are two main characters: you and Astro. You control Astro, but you are also a protagonist in your own right. The world sees you, interacts with you, uses you for certain parts of levels, and will occasionally attack you. This brings immersion to a new height. Not only do you need to control Astro, but you’ll always need to be aware of your surroundings. Astro is a great character; he’s brave, playful, and easy to control.
In addition to Astro and yourself, the cast includes a unique bunch of bosses. These bosses are perhaps my favorite part of ASTRO BOT. They are excellently designed and each battle is memorable. In all honesty, the first time I encountered a couple of bosses, I became nervous due to their size, sound design, and initial attack patterns.
ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission is like all of the other mascot driven platformers most of us have played. The player runs, jumps, swims, flies, and rides like any normal platformer. However, with the use of the PS VR headset, players now have a greater sense of depth, perspective, and ambiance which can literally be wrapped around the player. This means, occasionally the player will have to turn and look behind themselves, move their head to look around a wall, and bend over or stand up to see where they need to go. This level of immersion is what makes VR wonderful and what makes ASTRO BOT an experience like none other. If you’re questioning whether you should get a PS VR headset, I feel this game is a system seller.
As I mentioned above, the player has an in-game role. At certain times, the level gives one certain abilities, such as throwing a rope out of the controller, which can pull down walls or make a tightrope for Astro, a water cannon to blast enemies or solve platforming puzzles and throwing stars to use against enemies or creating walkways for Astro to cross. These abilities are a welcome addition to an already great experience.
Something else worth mentioning with the game design in ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission is the scale of levels and enemies. Video games have generally done a good job at giving players a sense scale, whether running through a jungle or invading a castle. But ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission excels in this area. The first boss you encounter is a King Kong-sized gorilla and in VR, it’s genuinely nerve-wracking when you’re standing face to face with a 30-foot-tall primate as he’s growling and slamming his fists inches away from you. This sense of scale is carried out through the rest of the boss encounters, but also in the level design. This is especially seen and felt when you must leap off a ledge and free fall, swim from the bottom of the sea to the surface, or when judging the distances between platform jumps.
In terms of how ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission looks and sounds all I can say is wow. Sometimes VR games, at least the ones I’ve played, don’t seem to be as crisp or clear as their non-VR counterparts. ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission, however, looks wonderful. The colors pop, the water effects look amazing, and the game is quite detailed. ASTRO BOT is currently the best-looking game on the PS VR.
The sound design of ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission is also fantastic. Whatever the level’s theme may be, whether a jungle, feudal Japan, or cemetery, you feel as if you’re there exploring alongside Astro. Dancing when he dances, experiencing the ambient animal noises, and jumping at the sound of thunder; it’s all there for the player to hear and enjoy. In addition to the background sound effects, the soundtrack to Astro Bot is excellent. The music is lively, exciting, and memorable. My only complaint about the music is that there seem to only be a handful of songs and they are reused throughout the game.
While the game is wonderful, there are a few shortfalls. During my playthrough on sections where I used the rope ability, I had to restart the entire level because the rope wouldn’t connect to a ring like it was supposed to. This issue also popped up during a boss fight again, forcing me to restart the battle. My second complaint is the platforming itself. I mentioned above how the player must move around to find paths, collectibles, and so forth which were fun. However, at certain times, regardless of how I moved, I was unable to judge the distance needed for Astro to complete a jump, resulting in an unfair death.
Overall, ASTRO BOT: Rescue Mission is one of the best, if not the best PS VR game to date. It’s a traditional platforming game but it uses the strengths of VR to make it a unique, fun, and memorable experience. The level, sound, and scale designs are phenomenal. Lastly, it’s a family-friendly title which everyone will enjoy. If you own a PS VR, you need to pick this title up. If you’re considering purchasing a PS VR system, this is a game that helps make that decision a little easier.
The Bottom Line