I had the opportunity to get an early look at Astronaut: The Best ahead of its August 15 release. Admittedly, I knew very little before jumping in. All I had seen is this Launch Announcement Trailer that had silly 2D graphics that reminded me of Homestar Runner. This is also studio Universal Happymaker’s first title, so I didn’t have much history to rely on.
But then on the Universal Happymaker YouTube channel, I saw videos showing off Astronaut: The Best going back as far as six years. And, after learning more about the title, I found out the team of four has actually been working on it for over eight years. Whenever a team is willing to put that amount of passion and dedication into their work, I’m more than willing to try it out. And with Astronaut: The Best, I’m oh so glad that I did.
Bring glory to Flaustria
The premise of Astronaut: The Best is rather simple. The previous director for the space program of the great nation of Flaustria has failed. Unfortunately, the program is in shambles, but the five High Priests have brought you in to fix things. Over the course of five missions, you’re tasked with doing everything in your power to train your astronauts for space. However, like any grand space program, there are some hurdles.
First off, Flaustria isn’t the only nation with a space program. You’ll have to deal with a rival nation plotting to sabotage and curtail your program in any way. Each mission has a unique focus, but along the way, you’ll also have to deal with the competing space program.
Also, the five High Priests each have their own desires for how they want the space program handled. It’s your job to consider all the options to figure out what gives you the best chance of success while also keeping the High Priests happy. Each of the five High Priests has their own unique personality, leading to some pretty comical interactions.
For example, in mission two the High Priests deemed it necessary for two of my astronauts to partake in a boxing match against astronauts from a rival nation to show our superiority. This is all while trying to prepare them for the space mission, mind you. Before the fight, High Priest Inside Track, who is in charge of the economy of Flaustria, paid me a visit. He subtly asked me to throw the match so we could make a lot of money. As you can imagine, it can be challenging juggling the demands of the High Priests while trying to successfully get to space.
These may not be the best astronauts for the job, but it’s up to you to change that
Each astronaut that you recruit has five stats and several unique traits. Most of the time you’ll have to train your astronaut in a specific stat in order to unveil the trait. Some are good, some are bad, and some are both. Typically these traits give you an increase or decrease in specific stats. Sometimes the traits aren’t stat-related at all.
For example, I had one astronaut who was a pirate in her off-time and was willing to share a cut of her pillaging gains with the space program. This gave me some more funds to train the astronauts each week. Or, at least it would have. Unfortunately, I also had an astronaut that was obsessed with the latest designer clothes and would bill it to the program. In the end, the two usually balanced each other out, but as you can imagine this can create unique hurdles for how you approach a mission.
Overall, Astronaut: The Best is a time management game. Each day you’ll be visited by a High Priest, then choose how you want to train each astronaut that day. Training them too much will stress them out, which can lead to them having a breakdown with destructive results. However, you can give them the day off to relieve stress or use consumable items that do the same.
Astronaut: The Best does what it does well
If you’re looking for a quirky time management game set in an intriguing—and comical—world, you want to check out Astronaut: The Best. I only got to play a couple of missions, but there are five in total. Each mission has its own branching storyline and narrative based on your choices along the way. This creates quite a bit of replayability, even if the mission count seems low at first. Events and tasks that pop up throughout each run are also procedurally generated, making each playthrough unique.
Don’t let the screenshots fool you. They almost did me, and they made me a bit worried about what I was getting myself into. But, after playing, I can tell you this is the perfect graphical style for Astronaut: The Best. You can learn the fundamentals very quickly, and each time you play you will learn more about how to increase your chances of success with the space program.
Oh, and you also get to chat with a six-legged lion. Where else can you do that?
Astronaut: The Best releases on PC via Steam on August 15. It’s also Steam Deck verified.