In 2013 Sony released The Playroom alongside the launch of the PS4. It consisted of a simple tech demo to show off what the new PlayStation camera was capable of. It’s here where we all got our first introduction to one of the many Astro Bots that had a party inside the Dualshock 4. They were cute and oozed with personality. Five years later and we have a hero Astro Bot that won’t only steal your heart, he’ll steal the show in the PSVR library.
Big in Japan
Whenever a game starts up with the ‘Japan Studio’ logo it’s, in essence, a symbol of quality heading your way. Astro Bot Rescue Mission is no different. Your adventure kicks off somewhere in virtual space when suddenly the Astro Ship is attacked and the many Astro Bot crew members are scattered among the planets in the solar system. Who is going to save them?! There is one shining light that steps up from the shadows – Astro the captain bot! As with all the other bots, he’s exceptionally cute but differs slightly in his appearance. He has blue marks on his body, to give him a trademark look, but he also wears a cape – not that it gives him any special features. It just means he’s the superhero of this big adventure.
The real power comes from the Dualshock 4 features.
Astro the captain bot isn’t alone in his adventure, as you’re going to be by his side. As the player, you are represented as a gigantic robot that follows him through each stage and you’re controlling him using the standard Dualshock 4. Astro the captain Bot can punch, power up a spin attack, swim, jump and hover in mid-air for a few seconds. These basic abilities will get him past one of the many enemies he’ll encounter. The rest is up to you. It takes a few seconds to adapt yourself to your new surroundings and the structures that work. You’ll be constantly looking around the world to find hidden passages or lookout for crew members that have somehow found themselves stuck in a hard-to-reach area. There’s always a way to get to them, even though some might be hidden from plain sight, and sometimes you have to literally use your head.
Go Go Gadget!
At certain points in the game, you’ll be able to move your head towards structures to break them and create a unique path for him to investigate. But, the real power comes from the Dualshock 4 features. Astro will sometimes bump into treasure chest-like items. Once he activates it you’re tasked at placing your controller in the chest to power it up with a gadget. The hookshot can be attached to certain objects and can either be pulled (using motion controls and yanking it towards your body) to break an obstacle in your path or your bot can hop on it to cross areas that could otherwise not be reached.
Water can help you put out flames and ninja stars can be thrown to help disperse enemies, cut ropes and various other uses. There are more gadgets, but I’m not going to spoil all the fun. What makes all these gadgets so entertaining to use is in the way that you activate them. The big touch pad is used for each gadget on the Dualshock 4. To shoot out water press and hold the touch pad, or tap it to shoot out the hook. The ninja stars? You guessed it – aim the controller and flick it out. It all feels very natural and is half the charm.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission feels like a Nintendo platformer that’s been created by a PlayStation studio.
In total there are 20 levels to explore in five worlds. You’ll venture through beautiful worlds that range from forests to beaches, under the water, lava-filled dangers and other levels filled with variety. The worlds are huge in terms of visual representation, which makes your tiny little bot look like a real hero. One thing that I did find annoying at first is that you can’t move backwards. Once you’ve moved forward in a level, and perhaps realised that you missed something, you can’t turn back and retry it (unless you kill your bot and restart from the last checkpoint). Make no mistake, the virtual world requires you to search in every nook and cranny to find all eight bots in each level. There are times you have to literally turn your head right around to find a naughty little bot, which you can hear pleading for help, but can’t see. There is also a hidden chameleon in each level that, when discovered, will grant you a challenge level to complete as a bonus. At the end of each world you’ll come face-to-face with a boss and boy, is it an awesome affair.
It’s-a me, super bot!
Astro Bot Rescue Mission feels like a Nintendo platformer that’s been created by a PlayStation studio. The boss fights are so reminiscent of battles you would have experienced in the various Mario games that it’s hard not to see the similarities. From a big gorilla-like monster (Donkey Kong) through to a squid-like battle (Blooper), it just all looks and plays very similar. And, that is not a bad thing. All the abilities that you learn up to that point in any world will be used to beat it. Again you’ll be combining Astro’s moves in tandem with yours to defeat anything that is thrown your way.
These battles aren’t exceptionally difficult, but it’s so, so much fun. To access each boss you’ll need to have a certain amount of Astro Bot members returned to their ship – that lock ain’t going to break itself, you know? So, it’s very important to save as many of the bots as you can. You’re not only saving the crew members, but you’re also collecting the parts on your ship that was destroyed when it was attacked. Once beating a boss you retrieve a part of your ship as well as coins. These coins can be used to buy an interactive diorama of moments you would have experienced on your adventures in a crane mini-game, like you would have played at arcades.
Like Moss, Astro Bot Rescue Mission is another standout platformer for PSVR. It seems that when you’re regarded as a ‘player in the game’ that it connects you to the little thing you’re controlling and immerses you like no other game can. It isn’t just a great PSVR game, it’s one of the best platformers that you can play on the PS4. Period.