By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on PC
Released on December 1st, 2016 on Steam
Developer/Publisher: Mad Capacity and LREVG
As I have mentioned in a previous review, nostalgia can be a powerful emotion, and there are a number of ways that games can evoke a feeling. One of those ways is through gameplay, and this is where Astervoid2000 comes flying in to smack you in the face with a game that boasts simple to learn controls and increasingly challenging gameplay to put your skills (and your thumbs) to the test.
Astervoid2000 is a frenetically-paced space brawler that can be played with up to four local players couch co-op style. There are two different modes that can both be played with up to four of your friends: Survival and Versus. Versus is exactly what it sounds like, up to four players can go at it to see who will become king of the couch and gain exclusive bragging rights. Survival mode pits you against AI controlled ships that attack in waves of ever-increasing difficulty. Survival mode is where most people will be spending their time. It starts off slow, with only one enemy at a time. After every three waves, you get a small break before the game adds an additional enemy ship and increases the difficulty. Like an old school arcade game, your only goal is to survive as long as possible while getting the highest score you can. There is an online leaderboard so you can compare yourself to other players around the world and see where you rank.
No matter what mode you choose, you get to choose your ship and your faction. There are six different ships you can choose from, along with six factions. The differences in the ships you can pick are purely cosmetic, and ‘factions’ are basically just different color schemes. The whole thing is just a way to differentiate yourself from others without giving you any gameplay advantages, that way you need to rely on skills to make it through alive, which is par for the course when it comes to older games.
The first thing I thought when I started played Astervoid was how nice it looked. My second thought was “oh damn I’m already dead”! That serves me right for not paying attention to the enemy. Anyhoo, even though the gameplay has a retro feel to it, the graphics are quite modern. The pixel graphics are very tight and smooth, giving it a gorgeous look akin to some of the nicer-looking 16-bit titles of the SNES/Sega Genesis era. On top of that, the special effects, like the exploding enemy ships, or the particle effects of the ship’s lasers add a lot of flash and pizzazz to the chaos of the battlefield. The game also features a fast-paced electronic soundtrack that fits perfectly well with the frantic space brawls. Some of the tracks even sound like the kind of tracks you might hear at a techno dance rave, so don’t be surprised if you’re playing and all of a sudden you feel like breaking out the glowsticks.
Okays folks, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty; the gameplay. A game with no narrative whatsoever has to rely solely on fun and engaging gameplay to keep people coming back for more, so it’s something that can make or break a title like this. Much like its inspired namesake, Asteroid, Astervoid2000 is played from a top-down view. Your ship has a shield and no health bar of any sort. It only takes one hit to drop your shield and one more to destroy you. Lucky for you, the shield regenerates after a few seconds, but you’re still pretty vulnerable so you should make good use of the ship’s ability to speed-dash to zip around the battlefield and avoid enemy fire. The ship’s basic laser attack has a good range to it, and you can also charge up for a powerful shot that has shorter range, but can wipe out a shielded enemy ship in one shot. Once your laser is fully charged, your ship’s movement speed is drastically reduced, making you an easy target, so be forewarned. The last offensive ability you have is the melee charge. This can be done by waiting until your laser is fully charged and pressing the dash button. This can be very useful for taking out multiple shielded enemies unlucky enough to be in your path if timed right. Enemy ships have the capability to do all the same things that you can, so it all boils down to skill to see who survives.
Space is a dangerous place, and as such, the battlefield is littered with hazards. First and foremost are the asteroids. There are four types to watch out for. Regular meteors are the most common and they don’t do anything special, but they can get in the way of your laser shots. Explosive meteors blow up when hit with enough shots, taking out anything nearby in the process. Shooting the shiny-looking meteors will cause your shots to ricochet off in another direction, but I never had much success in pulling off any tricks shots, to be honest. The last type of meteor looks like it has debris sticking out of it. These are indestructible and are a good source of cover from enemy fire. Every now and then a side of the screen will flash, indicating an incoming meteor shower. Even though getting hit by a meteor does no damage to you, these meteor showers are still dangerous because they can knock you off the screen, which kills you after a few seconds. Last but not least are the warships. Every now and then a warship will enter the field of battle. These behemoths move slowly across the screen while shooting out large blasts of plasma, and are dangerous to friends and foes alike. They take multiple hits to be defeated and causes a large explosion when destroyed. Smart players can easily turn these hazards into advantages that will give them an extra edge against their enemies.
I just want to take a minute here to discuss the controls before wrapping this review up. You have two options,you can use either a mouse & keyboard, or a gamepad. I spent an equal amount of time using both so I could determine if one way was better than the other, and I would say that this game is definitely meant to be played with a gamepad. It could be due to the fact that I was raised playing games like this on a console with a controller in hand, but the game feels a lot better while using any compatible gamepad (PS4 and Xbox controllers are okay). I find it much easier to maneuver around obstacles and gunfire with an analog stick than with the WASD style of movement. In a game where at the higher levels a slight mistake can get you killed, precision is everything. If you want to stick with a keyboard that’s fine, but I highly recommend using a controller.
It’s not all sunshine and explosions, however. There are some minor technical problems with Astervoid2000. I feel like the controls could do with a little extra explaining. For example; they give you a basic rundown of what buttons do what, but never explain to you how to use the melee charge. I didn’t even know that I could perform a move like that until I read about it on the game’s Steam page. It seems to me like a careless omission. And now for my biggest gripe. There is no online multiplayer whatsoever. I know the game is billed as a “couch co-op” experience, but with the prevalence of online play these days it seems crazy to not include it in a game meant to be played with other people, especially when you’re a person like me whose friends are either imaginary or living too far away to come over often.
When all is said and done, Astervoid2000 is light on content, but provides at least a few good hours of frantic space brawling mayhem with some excellent beats and solid pixel graphics. The low price makes it worth a pickup for anyone looking for an arcade game-like experience with a retro vibe.
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6.5/10
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