If the thought of terrifying VR experiences like Resident Evil 7 make you run for the proverbial hills, then you might want to try the super-cute and hideously addictive Astro Bot instead. This PSVR platformer may look like kiddie fare with its sickly sweet cartoony presentation, yet Astro Bot boasts universal appeal and delivers an impressively immersive experience to rival any virtual reality title out there.
The simple plot concerns a naughty alien smashing up Astro Bot’s spaceship and scattering dozens of his robot buddies across the galaxy. You task is to visit several worlds and hunt down these unfortunate wee blighters, before taking down a boss and moving onto the next area.
So far so very conventional, and on any other platform Astro Bot would be a fun but pretty standard experience. However, the virtual reality integration isn’t a simple gimmick, by any means. Shoving you face-first into these colourful worlds really adds to the gameplay and kept me coming back for more after every break.
Each level is reminiscent of classics like Super Mario 64, with you guiding our robot hero from start to finish in a mostly linear fashion. However, while quite a few platformers suffer from iffy camera work, that’s no problem here; after all, you are the camera. You can look around a full 360-degrees at any point, and you’ll have to in order to find all of the game’s secrets.
Astro Bot is steered about using the PS4 controller, and it’s all second nature after just a few minutes. You can glide across gaps with a double-tap of the jump button and give enemies a smack when they get too close – or punch suspicious-looking weak points in walls to reveal hidden areas.
Occasionally you’ll be called upon to interact directly with the environment yourself. For instance, you can headbutt walls to make them crumble, or cranes to make them spin around. And the controller – which appears in virtual form in the game – is occasionally upgraded with special tricks. One early example is a slinghook which can grapple onto objects and tug them closer, or create a tightrope for Astro Bot to cross a gorge.
Best of all, the enemies can actively attack you as well as Astro Bot. Some spit in your face to make your vision fuzzy. Giant bullets crash into your head and distract you. Of course, you can duck and dodge these projectiles if you’re quick enough.
Each level has enough secrets to warrant further playthroughs, including a hidden chameleon which must be glared at to unlock bonus challenges. These challenge levels are a great distraction from the main game, with plenty of variety too. Some are straight races using completed levels. Others have you taking down as many enemies as possible in a short time and so on.
And as if that wasn’t enough, you can also visit Astro Bot’s spaceship at any point once the first world is beaten. There’s not much to do here, admittedly, but the arcade game is worth a play to unlock mini collectibles.
The most impressive aspect of the VR integration is the sheer sense of scale. This is most apparent on the boss levels, which pit you against enormous foes that tower over you and the dinky Astro Bot. You can practically feel the room shaking as these beasts stomp and rage before you, and it’s absolutely breathtaking.
This is what VR was created for. Astro Bot serves up a truly memorable and immersive gaming experience that everyone can enjoy, really throwing you into the game with its smart design work. I haven’t even mentioned the crazily catchy soundtrack, or the cute way which Astro Bot dances when he’s happy, or a million of the other enjoyable touches that the developers have thrown in. Basically, if you own a PSVR, then get this game.
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