Astro Bot Rescue Mission - Review

"Imagine playing Super Mario 64 but Mario is half the size of your cat and Bowser is the size of your living room wall."

Release date:  October 2, 2018
Developer:  SIE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

I'm old enough to have grown up playing Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man at home on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but I'm not enough to have first played those game in arcades and witnessed the magic of suddenly being able to play them at home with unlimited access. I was only able to truly experience this phenomenon as I got older when arcade staples like Time Crisis, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Dance Dance Revolution, and Crazy Taxi were eventually ported to consoles, but the effect wasn't lost on me. The magnitude of being able to play a game unrestricted that was previously miles away, in a mall arcade, available only during mall hours when you could get a ride there, and had quarters in your pocket, can not be overstated.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission, though only available on PlayStation VR, creates a similar feeling. I've owned a PlayStation VR for over a year now and while many of the games feel like something you could previously only experience for $60 an hour at a VR Arcade or a Dave and Buster's, each expertly crafted level of Astro Bot Rescue Mission feels like a Disney World attraction that you hopped on a plane for. Seriously, like booked a hotel, woke up at 7 am the next day and waited two hours in line for. It is far and away one of the most magical experiences I have ever had playing a video game and the fact that I can play it sitting on my couch is astounding.

This should be the new standard for 3D platformers.

Astro Bot's level design is a game changer. It must be experienced to understand. Imagine being the actual camera in a 3D platformer. You can see in every direction, peeking behind walls to reveal secrets. You'll go underwater, scale skyscrapers, crawl through caves, all while guiding your tiny robot friend through various perils. Not only is the platforming tight and reliable but the VR integration allows the player to interact with the environments by breaking objects with their head or blowing petals off of flowers with their own breath. The levels themselves are typical of traditional 3D platformers but the verticality and depth feels so grand. You'll guide Astro Bot across tightropes right above your head or walk him far into the distance to fetch coins.  It is such a fresh change from the static camera angles of platformers past and it borders on revolutionary.

Your goal in Astro Bot Rescue Mission is to guide Astro Bot through five worlds rescuing other little Astro Bot allies and recovering pieces of their A.I. space ship so they can continue partying. Each level was delightful to play. I was left consistently wondering what came next which led me to play Astro Bot Rescue Mission for longer durations than any other PSVR game I have ever spent time with. As a newer medium, virtual reality experiences tend to be such highly concentrated sensory overloads that I usually only play for about forty-five minutes or less before I take a break. Time spent in VR also tends to feel so isolating that I frequently pull the headset off to check my surroundings so it was extraordinary to get lost in Astro Bot Rescue Mission and complete entire worlds in one session.

Each world ends with an inventive boss battle. The player is provided with a tool to assist Astro Bot such as a grappling hook, water hose, or ninja throwing stars. The bosses are massive mascots that are just so huge in VR that it's again hard to explain. Imagine playing Super Mario 64 but Mario is half the size of your cat and Bowser is the size of your living room wall. The battles are fun and occasionally very challenging. I was stuck on the final boss for about an hour but as frustrated as I was, I can't wait to play through it again.

All of this is championed by a near perfect soundtrack consisting of catchy, modern techno anthems, with Daft Punk-esque robo-vocals that I can't get out of my head.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a contemporary masterpiece. Had I played it prior to writing my Top 5 Games of 2018 list it would absolutely be #1. It is worth noting that Astro Bot received Best VR/AR Game at the 2018 Game Awards and currently holds a 90/100 Meta Critic score. This is not just the killer app for PSVR, Astro Bot should be the poster child for the VR revolution. Twenty years from now when virtual reality is the standard, Astro Bot Rescue Mission will be remembered as a classic.

Check out our full play through below:

World 1

World 2

World 3

World 4

World 5

Final Boss and Credits

- Matt

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