Panic Button is known for helping bring hits like Rocket League and Octodad to more platforms then they started out on, but Astro Duel Deluxe looks to shake things up for the team. Astro Duel Deluxe is Panic Button's first published title, created exclusively for the Nintendo Switch in collaboration with the games creator Wild Rooster. Inspired by classic games, Astro Duel Deluxe is a local multiplayer game that sees players duke it out in spaceships, with everything retro worth loving. From the ground up, this game feels like a classic, with a simple yet intricate approach to old-school multiplayer. While not offering much beyond that appeal, the game is great for what it is; A space ship battle shooter fit for the finest of arcade cabinets.
Astro Duel Deluxe is the Switch-Centric upgrade from the original Astro Duel, made tailored to support the dynamic console. Featuring three game modes and supporting up to six players, Astro Duel Deluxe is a great fit for anyone who often hosts game time with friends. Its classic mode is a free-for-all two to four player battle, with fair settings throughout. There is also “Chaos” mode, which ups the maximum players to six, while also allowing for more insane gameplay with boosted powerups and closer spawn points. Both of these can be played in team variations. The last mode is a bit more of an oddity, albeit one that allows for more people to play if you do not have many controllers. This mode is titled “Party”, and fittingly so, allowing two to four players to partake in death matches using the Switch’s responsive touch screen. Each player is granted two buttons, one for shooting and one for turning, which you can only turn one way. This makes timing key and gameplay more frantic, and the end result is a funnier experience.
Aside from the Party mode, the other two are easily played with any combination of joy-cons and pro controllers. The games standard is to get a set amount of kills via battle, either using your stock gun shots, specialty weapons that can be picked up around the map, and even by running your opponent over. That’s right, if you play with a certain set of rules, you can only get points once the pilot is killed rather than by just destroying the ship. If the pilot can scramble around the map long enough without getting killed, your ship will respawn granting you an additional chance at battle. All three game modes have a nice selection of optional settings, from how points are scored, to whether or not you are using teams, and even starting weapons. These shake things up and add some variety to an otherwise repetitive game. I personally liked adding a random starting weapon, turning on super boost, as well as leaving on sudden death, which sees a giant laser sweep the screen if players are left alive for too long. The various options allow you to make Astro Duel Deluxe a lot more personal of an experience, fine tailored to your liking.
While Astro Duel Deluxe gets the local party aspects down to a T, it is lacking in other ventures. Single player is incredibly limited, with no arcade mode type features or scoring situations to give you something to fight towards. It would have been nice to have some sort of randomized arcade mode that would keep track of high-scores and challenge you in various ways. Additionally, it is a shame that multiplayer is limited to local only. I would have loved to go three vs three online, in a similar fashion to Rocket League. I think something like that could have caught on rather well, especially in a currently limited online multiplayer market on the Switch. It is just disappointing, I feel like there is more that can be tapped out of this title.
What is not disappointing is the aesthetics present. Both the sounds and visuals are very gratifying, hitting all the right retro notes while still feeling fresh. The music is cool and fitting to the gameplay, as are the noises from each of the respective weapons. While clean graphically, there is still enough bit-styled goodness to keep it feeling classic, right down to the pixelated blood and guts that float across the screen after getting squashed by a ship. The teams did a great job with Astro Duel Deluxe. The gameplay is fun and the style hits all the right notes, but the scope and appeal is limited. Lone wolves won’t find much to do outside of the occasional solo death-match, and online multiplayer could have been the easy solution. Who knows if we will ever see the true potential of the title come to light, but in the meantime Astro Duel Deluxe is a solid title if you host game night often or are a die-hard fan of retro titles.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
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