Astro Boy: The Video Game Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Astro Boy: The Video Game Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

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.

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.

The other half of Astro Boy’s equation is the SHMUP gameplay. It’s side-scrolling, in-the-air action, á la Nanostray 2 (DS), but it’s completely formulaic and uninteresting. Enemies swarm in from the front, behind, and corners of the screen – everything you’ve come to expect from a typical, Galaga-esque-type game – and aside from utilizing your Specials, all you have is a dull laser to combat enemies with. There are no cool blasts and explosions that fill the screen, and as a whole, Astro Boy is a journey that just feels lifeless in almost every way.

Astro Boy: The Video Game screenshot

The production of the game bears a lot of blame in that respect, too, since neither the sound nor visuals do much to elevate the experience. There are elements of Astro Boy that look really good, such as various aspects of the lighting and shading, but there are many more chunks of really poor visual design. Certain portions of grass are represented by huge, blocky green textures, and things only look worse when the camera comes in close during cutscenes. The aesthetic is mostly there for this game, but the execution feels completely rushed.

The music sort of straddles the fence in terms of what it has to offer the adventure – neither taking away from the game nor offering anything of value. Themes are generic and loop without cadence during moments of excitement. The sound effects, though, do add a bit of satisfaction to portions of the combat, but it’s just not enough to make Astro Boy a fun game to play.

Though many folks will consider this game because they enjoyed the movie and want to extend the experience at home, others will be curious because of the enjoyment they had with Treasure’s version of Astro Boy for Gameboy Advance some years back. The latter group, unfortunately, is sure to be let down by High Voltage’s use of the license. An Arena mode (a type of survival mode) makes the short list of extras, but the package is still incredibly anemic. The game controls fine, and there are moments of mild enjoyment, but Astro Boy for Wii and PS2 is an otherwise premier example of “average” in gaming. With so much great content coming out for the holidays, there’s little reason to throw your gaming dollars at this adventure.

There are elements of the visuals that are impressive, but conversely, there’s a whole lot of ugly design here. 3.5 Control
Controls feel responsive, and the selection of moves during beat’em-up combat is fun. The SHUMP portions are pretty uneventful. 2.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some sound effects add flavor to combat, but the music is completely lackluster. 2.0 Play Value
The story mode clocks in at roughly three hours in length, and the Arena mode does little to add value to the package. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Become Astro Boy – Play as Astro Boy, the beloved character from the feature film and classic anime and interact with the much loved characters from the movie universe.
  • Battle Fearsome Foes – Battle hordes of robot enemies and colossal bosses including some never-before-seen enemies across Metro City and the mysterious Surface.
  • Two-Player Co-op Mode – Live the story side-by-side with a friend in two-player co-op mode.

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