A Real Kick in the Astro
Astro Boy is a futuristic take on the story of Pinocchio. A man’s longing for a son drives him to create an artificial life form; in this case, a robot. But this robot is the most sophisticated piece of machinery ever created. So powerful is this robot that it must be used for the good of mankind and not just to be kind to one man. Astro Boy: The Video Game will actually be kind to you as well, since this is a darn good game, much better than expected for a game designed to coincide with the launch of a movie of the same name.
Astro Boy: The Video Game for the PSP is an action-platformer. It’s well designed and offers plenty of fun. It does tend to get repetitive after a while, but that’s the price you pay for an arcade-style game. My advice with such games is to savor them by playing a few levels at a time. Of course, I can’t do that since I have to complete the review as soon as possible, but I know I would enjoy this game much better over a couple of weeks rather than a couple of days.
Astro Boy has been around since before I was a kid, and that’s a long time… a long time. The cartoon series was released to North American audiences in 1963. It existed in Manga form back in 1951 – long before my time.
The cartoon series was the first anime ever released from Japan. There have been numerous remakes of the TV series as well as comic books, Manga, and video games. Astro Boy the movie has just been released at the writing of this review. So as you can see, Astro Boy has quite the illustrious history. Aside from the last GBA version a few years back, most Astro Boy video games have been forgettable if not downright despicable. This PSP version may not become a classic, but it’s a fun game that does the franchise justice.
The game starts out with the origin of Astro Boy. We learn that he was once a real boy named Toby. During a scientific demonstration he was accidentally trapped inside a force field with a berserk robot that eventually killed him. His scientist father felt responsible for the incident and constructed a robot in the likeness of his son Toby. But it turns out that Astro Boy is more of a weapon than a cuddly kid, and his father ultimately rejects him. With jets in his feet for flying, super strength and lasers, cannons and machine guns equipped in his body, Astro Boy is ready to take on the challenges of Metro City. Did I mention that he has a machine gun in his butt?
Essentially, the gameplay is an amalgam of genres including brawling, shooting, and platforming. Astro Boy is also able to fly, adding another dimension to the gameplay. But this isn’t a thinking man’s game, it’s pure arcade fun filled with platform jumping, kicking and punching enemies, collecting power-ups, and battling bosses. Astro’s enemies are the evil President Stone’s army of robots, and there is a good assortment of character models to battle. The bosses are huge and take up most of the screen. They require some patience in learning their patterns in order to ascertain their weaknesses and to learn to attack at the optimum moment while hiding when they are in attack mode.
Astro Boy has a number of abilities that can be upgraded. You’ll locate these blue-colored upgrades throughout the levels. Most of them are located directly in your path, but others will require some searching. Health, jets, and weapons can all be upgraded, but you don’t have any choice in what gets upgraded. That is dictated by the blue upgrade. Each upgrade is immediately noticeable and invaluable, as the level of difficulty seems to increase along with your new abilities. Although Astro Boy can fly and has an incredible arsenal of weaponry at his disposal, the game limits the amount of special moves that you can make. Near the top of the screen is an indicator that displays the number of moves you have left, so you have to learn to conserve them. Use the special moves only when necessary. Average enemies can be disposed of with punches and kicks.
The commands are quick and satisfying. Almost every punch or kick connects, as long as you’re in range. Astro even has a great backflip move that allows him to get in close and get out fast. Wall jumping is another great move, and you can even link moves together to increase your devastation and unleash some cool combat animations. Pressing the D-pad down will turn all of the enemies into health for a short period. The more enemies that you surround yourself with the more health you will acquire, but at the risk of them returning to full enemy status with you a little too close for comfort.
As a traditional side-scroller, Astro Boy: The Video Game has just the right amount of new features to keep it from being an old-school clone. The backgrounds display depth and detail, although many of the textures look like sheets that were wrapped around the buildings and platforms. The voiceovers, especially the narrative, is well done. The story follows events in the movie and even goes beyond. The music is mostly upbeat and catchy, perfectly capturing the essence of each situation. There’s not a lot of replay value here, just increases in difficulty. Parents should note that although the game has plenty of combat, there is no blood, as the enemies are all robots. While that may be admirable, the robots could at least explode. Instead they just fade away, like the memory of this game will from your mind after it’s completed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
Colorful, simple graphics with nice detail, smooth animation, and good variety of character models. 4.5 Control
Responsive control system with a good assortment of moves and weapons. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Catchy, upbeat music with a good story. Somewhat repetitive. 3.4 Play Value
Repetitive gameplay with little replay value. Play in small doses. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.