REVIEW: Astral Traveler

Nov
21

REVIEW: Astral Traveler

Take on the stars and galaxies in this high-speed racer that tries it’s best to combine obstacle courses, spaceships, and shooting.

Status: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Casual, Action
Developer: Dragon Slumber, Brainoid
Publisher: Dragon Slumber
Release date: 13 Sep, 2017

Faster than the speed of light

I’ve usually enjoyed all kinds of parkour/obstacle course games. There’s something satisfying when everything just flows after multiple frustrating moments before you learn the course. It’s even better if there are multiple ways to get to the end. With this game, I was very close to quitting several times from pure frustration. It was not because the game seemed too hard, but rather because the hostile enemies are so bothersome on otherwise fantastic tracks. In most games, I don’t mind a difficult learning curve.  I enjoy the feeling when I’ve learned how to play and progress as a player, but here, I completely lost my interest more than twice in a 30-minute gaming session, and every time the hostile creatures were to blame.

Gameplay Video

Navigating the stars

I’m not quite sure if the controls are to blame or perhaps the pace just so fast that I can’t react in time, but sometimes it felt that jumping does not respond right away. I tested this out by going slower, ignoring the spheres that give me a speed boost and then the jumping was tight and responsive. Default controls also aren’t very intuitive. shooting, jumping and activating the spheres are bound to J, K and L in that order. I played around a bit with re-binding them but didn’t find a proper setup that felt intuitive. Shooting the enemies in this game usually breaks everything down. When hostile enemies appear, it usually mixes things up when you have to start jumping and dodging seriously, with most attempts ending in flying against the wall or dropping out of the course to empty space. There is an aim-assist in this game but it seems to pick up the blue (turbo) spheres before enemies. The turbo spheres are activated just before you hit them, so that also contributes to the fact that dodging enemy fire and obstacles/gaps at the same time is a hassle. It’s possible, but not fun. The ship can’t take many hits and after being destroyed, we don’t respawn at the checkpoint like we do when we fall off the track. It’s back to the beginning.

There they come again…

It’s a shame since the tracks themselves are absolutely fantastic. There is a lot of jumping and dodging involved, especially the third sector that was in the middle of space and the routes which appeared as I went forward were great. The few first times I played it, I had my full concentration on the game for the first time, reacting as fast as I could and having a blast. There was no sign of impending enemies on that level and I secretly hoped that they wouldn’t appear anymore at all. However, after that level they were back and again I started feeling like I really wanted to quit. I tried to look for an option to turn the hostile creatures off and just enjoy the tracks themselves, but I didn’t find any such option. I don’t really see why forcing players to endure the hostilities is a good thing. They don’t serve any other purpose than artificial difficulty and take away the fun from nice jumping/dodging sections.

JUMPED TOO FAR!!

Sighting the stars

Here, the graphics do their job. The spacey background is great to look at and I didn’t have time to relax and enjoy the details on the tracks and ships themselves. Overall, the visual style has to be clear in this kind of game to be able to beat those records. Obstacles are distinct from the background so it’s easy to navigate even at high speeds through the tunnels that constantly seemed to throw obstacles at me. The upbeat soundtrack is also nice to speed along to, although it gets repetitive on longer gaming sessions. But then again, games like these aren’t meant to be played for several hours in one sitting. There is diversity in the sector background and I felt the main aspect stayed the same. It’s either going on a pipe, or in a pipe with little flying sections in between.

Let the racing begin!

Verdict

An idea like this sounds great on paper: combine a fast-paced racer and shooting baddies, but for the majority of players, it’s too much. This game would benefit greatly from an option to turn the enemy ships off since the tracks itself are great and fun, hindered only by the afore-mentioned hostilities. Allowing the choice to turn them off would please more casual gamers but still give more of a challenge to the hardcore fans of the genre. Forcing the players to live with the enemies might take away a big portion of the already small player base of this game genre. It may feel that I’ve gone on too long about the enemies, but they really do ruin almost everything in my opinion. One flaw, but it does massive damage to the enjoyment.

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About Ejl

Been playing games from all genres from as far as i can remember. Started from C64, had a little affair with only consoles for few years but returned eventually to pc-gaming. Considers himself a casual gamer with a serious attitude towards mastering games. Likes to explore unknown games without reading too much about them beforehand, just starting a game, and seeing what it offers.

Other hobbies include gym and music: I play guitar, bass, keyboards and very little drums.

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