Astro Boy: The Video Game Review
Wii | PS2 | PSP | DS
Astro Boy: The Video Game box art
System: Wii, PS2, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: High Voltage Software 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: D3 Publisher 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 20, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Based on the long-time-classic Japanese manga and anime series, Astro Boy the movie recently hit theatres worldwide. Tagging along for the ride is High Voltage Software's (The Conduit) interpretation of the story for Wii and PS2. Does this robotic adventure truly have heart, or is it merely a mess of bad circuitry?

Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot

The game begins with a bit of narrated back-story regarding the character, Astro, whom you'll be playing as throughout the game. The discovery of two powerful orbs - a blue orb filled with pure positive energy, and a red orb of pure negative energy - leads to the unfortunate loss of Dr. Tenma's son. Using the blue orb, Tenma creates Astro, but painful memories cause him to reject the robot boy.

The story of Astro Boy is eerily reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's A.I. (2001) movie, but the dialogue here is grossly cliché. It doesn't help that each line of dialogue is delivered out of sync with the movements of the characters' mouths onscreen. The story and characters ultimately end up being an annoying addition most players will likely want to skip past, which, to the game's credit, you can do.

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The gameplay in Astro Boy is one long stretch of levels. You can exit out after reaching a checkpoint and restart right where you left off, but there are no breaks in the progression, other than the occasional cutscene tossed in between missions. There are cheats hidden within levels, and being able to replay specific portions of the game is a nice touch if you want to collect all of the items or simply revisit a particular area.

In terms of what you'll be doing in the game, well, Astro Boy is basically two old-school-style games in one. You've got your on-foot, beat'em-up gameplay, and then there are traditional, 2D shoot'em-up (SHMUP) segments. Of the two, there's definitely a bit more fisticuffs, but neither element of the game is all that compelling.

Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot

When brawling, it's a simple matter of moving to an area of the level, beating up on a bunch of enemies, wait for a cue that tells you to move on, and then repeat the process until the end of the level. Visually, the game is 3D, but you'll only need to concern yourself with one 2D plane during combat.

As for the controls, there's a bit of depth here, but nothing too complex. The analog stick moves Astro, he can jump and jet across chasms, and he's got both a basic melee attack and long-ranged laser. Control feels responsive, if perhaps a little loose and weightless. When Astro jumps, he glides through the air a bit slower than we'd like, but overall, the mechanics of the game are hard to find fault with. There is a bit of an issue in terms of melee combat, however, since Astro will occasionally pick up nearby enemies, yet he doesn't do it consistently; there's no real way to know when he's going to use this technique.

Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot

Astro's got a couple of other tricks up his sleeve (or in his arm, actually) as well, and each of these extra abilities uses up energy from his Special meter. His Arm Cannon shoots a powerful beam in a straight line, which is particularly useful when you're faced with a row of enemies and your health is low. If you're surrounded, however, his Butt Cannon is probably the better way to go; it's also the more satisfying of the two powers, as it tends to annihilate everything around you, and the sounds that accompany firing off rounds have a really great, punchy zing to them. Lastly, you can use one of your Special bars to heal yourself, and since this ability absorbs enemy fire, you can heal yourself more effectively by waiting for the screen to fill up with bullets.

Unfortunately, even with solid combat and collision detection, the beat'em-up gameplay is still very antiquated. You'll eventually find a cheat (which isn't well hidden at all) that will allow you to become invincible, and it makes an already repetitive experience almost pointless. There are a handful of neat, albeit easy, bosses, though the final boss is an utter disappointment, with its lack of challenge and almost broken A.I. patterns.

Screenshots / Images
Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot - click to enlarge

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