Move over Knack, Astro Bot should be the new robot mascot of Sony

Platforming in VR feels refreshing

I know, I know: you’re probably a member of a good portion of our audience who just isn’t into VR. That’s fine, I get it.

But if you’re a platforming purist and can somehow get your hands on a PSVR to test out Astro Bot: Rescue Mission when it’s released later this year, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve been digging into VR platformers since day one of the Oculus Rift, which launched with several, most notably the high profile Lucky’s Tale. Lucky is the perfect example of a game that works from all angles, not just in VR, and that’s exactly why it got a traditional Xbox One port. I think Astro Bot could technically get the same treatment, but a little more would be lost in translation because of how much it uses the medium to influence its design.

During my hands-on time I was given a taste of three levels (of 26 in the final version) — two traditional linear stages and a boss fight with a giant King Kong-esque villain. As part of the “sky” theme the collection immediately flooded my mind with memories of Jumping Flash, vertigo and all as I strapped the PSVR to my head and glanced down at bottomless pits of death and plenty of open air.

It might not look like much in screens but Astro Bot is breathtaking in VR. It’s also one of the smoothest platformers I’ve played this year, which is in part indebted to its simplicity. Your titular rescue robot, which is tasked with locating various helper bots as a sort of collectible in each mission on top of the chief goal of reaching the end point, can only do two basic actions — jump and punch. The catch is that the former can be extended with a hover, which also doubles as a downward laser attack in your wake. Enemies are conquered much like a 3D Mario game, which works to its benefit.

Because it takes a few meaningful cues from tried and true platformers of old, Astro Bot‘s roots are grounded and familiar while still conveying its own personality. Small details like tapping the touchpad to launch your bot into a level or capturing your robot friends into an on-screen rendition of the DualShock 4 are cute and practical — as any tutorial or gentle instructional nudge is done with a subtle highlighted on-screen prompt that doesn’t take up too much screen real estate. After all, VR extends your viewpoint quite a bit, opening up stages with plenty of hidden corners that require a quick peek or a swivel of your head (speaking of your head, there are several buttons that can be pressed by bonking your face into them, a gesture that also doubles as a removal tool for ink or other screen-stealing hazards).

That’s pretty much all there is to Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. It’s entering a space that still hasn’t been flooded or mastered yet, and it’s doing its part in helping to pave the way for VR platformers as a legitimate subgenre.

Chris Carter
Reviews Director, Co-EIC - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff!