Sometimes, the games that you least expect end up being the most memorable. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is PlayStation's latest must-have virtual reality experience so let's get ready to save some stranded miniature robotic buddies!
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission has you control a little robot hero who's on a mission to save all of his friends after their weird space station thing gets torn apart by an evil alien conqueror. So, it's up to you to travel to 5 worlds in order to find and rescue them one by one. When you first boot up Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, you may recognize that it's very similar to the Robots Rescue mini-game from The Playroom VR. However, it's much more complex, challenging, and refined.
The core gameplay is fairly standard for a 3D platformer as you control Astro Bot to run and jump around intricate stages. The main twist is that your head is the camera. As Astro Bot progresses forward through a stage, the camera automatically moves forward as well but you can't move it back so if you want to find everything, you have to thoroughly search your surroundings before it's too late. This mechanic reminded me of the original Super Mario Bros. because you couldn't move back in that either. Anyway, the stages are massive and have an impressive amount of verticality so being able to find every single stranded bot requires a lot of careful searching.
Before I discuss the gameplay further, allow me to explain just how delightful the game world of Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is. For starters, the stages look absolutely stunning complete with unique themes such as dark caves, bright cliffs, underwater segments, and exciting roller coaster rides. There's a ton of detail within each stage and their characteristics come together to form an adorable, living, and breathing world. For example, if you simply look at certain things then they'll react like how Astro Bot excitedly waves at you. Speaking of which, the animation is superb. I don't think I've ever seen robots behave this lively in a game. They may be mechanical but the way they move is more lifelike than most digital representations of humans. The most noteworthy example is the giant robot who helps you in one of the stages. His facial expressions are so emotive that it made me want to know more about him.
Phew; back to the gameplay! Astro Bot controls super-tight as you make him run and jump. He can also hover after you hold the jump button which makes lasers shoot down from his feet. This doubles as an attack and I found myself using it frequently as such because it's often far less risky. Upon holding the attack button for long enough; Astro Bot will perform a spin move that can devastate a small group of enemies which is also very handy. Besides controlling Astro Bot, you will also acquire stage-specific power-ups that take over your controller which is displayed onscreen. These include an extendable wire that can pull things down and allow Astro Bot to tightrope walk on, a water cannon, a machine gun that shoots balls, a flashlight for spooky stages, and shurikens which are by far the coolest. The mix of 3D platforming and these additional power-ups makes for one fantastically engaging gameplay formula.
The best aspect of Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is its stage designs. They're intricately crafted and incredibly exciting to explore. You'll find yourself moving seamlessly between tricky platforming parts, mini-bosses, secret areas, on-rails sections, puzzles, and plenty of segments that utilize the power-ups in clever ways. Some parts will have your stomach in your throat as you try and quickly solve situations before the walls close in on Astro Bot or he gets crushed, etc. Overall, these are some of the best stages that I've ever seen in any 3D platformer and I've been playing them since the mid-'90s. The range of emotions that you'll feel as you play is astounding. You'll go from thinking "Aww!" to "Wow!" to "Oh, snap!" all within the same stage and that's mostly due to the genius level designs.
As you play through these memorable and awe-inspiring stages, you'll find plenty of secrets. There are 20 stages in total plus 6 boss stages as well as 26 optional challenge levels. Each stage contains 8 robots to save and a hidden chameleon to spot. The sense of exhilaration that you'll feel whenever you spot a chameleon is just awesome. As you do, it looks startled then gradually materializes until you finally collect it. Anyway, these chameleons unlock the challenge levels which are timed events that award you with up to 2 additional robots if you manage to beat them fast enough. On top of all this, you'll also acquire money that you can redeem in a claw machine mini-game. There, you unlock toys that come together to form very cool scenarios within your headquarters. These challenges and collectibles add a ton of replay value to Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. You can easily play for hours upon hours and still have much more to do.
There isn't much negative to say about Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. Heck, I even enjoyed it slightly more than Super Mario Odyssey, believe it or not. However, there are 2 downsides that come to mind. The first is that I wish there were more varieties of baddies. As it is, you'll take on the same dozen or so enemy types throughout the campaign. Sure, there are absolutely amazing boss battles and plenty of mini-bosses but the regular enemies start to get repetitive after a while. This isn't a big deal because fighting them is far from a significant aspect of the gameplay. The other downside is that there was multiplayer in the previously released Robots Rescue mini-game but there isn't any here. Again, this isn't a deal breaker because the multiplayer wasn't that engaging and felt like more of an afterthought. If these are the only negative points that I can think of then you can trust that this is a phenomenal game.
When it comes to either VR games or 3D platformers, you can't do much better than Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. In fact, its incredible world and super-satisfying gameplay make it my favourite new game of 2018 so far.
- + Phenomenal 3D platforming with loads of variety and awe-inspiring stage designs
- + Gorgeous and delightful game world
- + Rewarding challenges and collectibles
- - Could use more enemy types
- - No multiplayer modes