Video Game Rentals Delivered

Astro Tripper (PSN)

David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-16 05:11:53

Astro Tripper (PSN) - Rank C

Developer: PomPom Games
Publisher: SCEA
Date: 3/12/09

Astro Tripper is the sort of game that's easy to want to root for. It's a throwback side-scrolling shooter, created by an anonymously small developer, and published with absolutely no press coverage. It'd be actually easy to root for if it was a better game.

The game play is simple. You move left and right through a stage, firing until all the enemies are dead, whereupon you move on to a new stage and repeat the process. Simple, right? Retro cool, yeah?

No. The game's problems stem from the design of the controls. You have two weapons: a straight power shot, and a arcing scatter shot. They both serve useful functions, but you're required to push a separate button to switch between the two. It'd be simpler and less confusing to simply have specific fire buttons for the two weapons.

Likewise, turning around requires yet another button push, as opposed to pushing the stick in the opposite direction. I understand that this choice was made so that you could fire and move backward at the same time, but if that was such a concern, the second thumbstick should have been employed as the firing mechanism. I know many of us have "twin stick shooter fatigue", but there's a solid design reason why they became popular. They intuitively translate our desires into action for these sort of games.

At a price point of $5, I was fairly eager to try Astro Tripper. I mean, I spend more than that every time I buy a smoothie. Sadly, I ended up wishing I had bought a smoothie instead. I'm all for "retro chic", but take away the fancy modern graphics and warp this game back to the 1980s, and it would not have stood the test of time. I can think of dozens of retro games off the top of my head that I'd enjoy playing more.

Some gamers are masochists that equate "hard" with "good". I'm not against punishing difficulty (it makes success that much more satisfying), but that has no correlation to quality of design. Astro Tripper artificially manufactures difficulty by confusing you with unintuitive controls that you have to fight, as opposed to presenting inherently challenging game play. Astro Tripper hits a pleasantly nostalgic nerve, and isn't terrible by any means, but there are plenty of worthier alternatives.

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