VR gaming is very much still in its infancy, which means the technology will surely go through a number of changes and revolutions before it settles upon what works best. This includes what genres work within VR, and how they’re fundamentals need to be reshaped. Platformers have been somewhat on the periphery of this though, as first-person experiences dominate the VR landscape. So, when I first booted up Astro Bot Rescue Mission and saw that it was a platformer, my expectations dropped significantly.
As I played though, it became clear that this might be a touchstone for VR gaming as a whole. Astro Bot Rescue Mission isn’t PSVR’s next big killer app, but it does represent something important. It’s a blissfully polished adventure that will please almost anyone that picks it up and plays.
Your first moments with Astro Bot Rescue Mission are pretty much what you’d expect out of a colorful platformer like this. You are introduced to the characters and world, something goes wrong, and you set out to fix it. In this case an alien attacks and your fellow Astro Bots are spread around various planets. You will work to recover them as you adventure through tightly designed platforming dioramas.
Each world exists as floating platforms or isolated islands. You explore them the usual way, running, jumping, hovering, etc. Hidden within each level are various Astro Bots as well as some bonuses and challenges to enhance the difficulty. What will surprise most is how effective the level design feels, working within the confines of VR to enhance the experience without making things too obvious.
What will surprise most is how effective the level design feels
Most VR games put you in a first-person perspective since that works best within the technology. Astro Bot Rescue Mission mixes this up quite a bit, with a sort of hybrid first and third person view. You see, you use the controller to move Astro Bot around the level, ducking into corners and caverns to locate all the missing bots. Then you yourself are a robot within the level, which can come up when things hit you and stick to your visor, or when something needs smashing via your forehead. It also means you’re dealing with a fixed perspective, usually inside of the level itself, meaning you often need to look around to find where something is hidden.
Levels are crafted to take advantage of this dual view mode with collectibles always seemingly tucked away where they aren’t easily visible. New powers, such as grappling hooks or water hoses, are introduced slowly, allowing you to understand how they work while learning new ways to use the power within each stage. Each power is attached to your Dual Shock 4, allowing you to aim and fire using the touchpad. By combining your regular exploration with these powers you can find some truly hidden parts of the level. Can you get through a stage without checking every single cavern for missing bots? Yep, but you won’t have nearly as much fun as those that do.
If you rush through each stage, interacting with the minimal amount of terrain and enemies, then Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a pretty easy affair. Challenge exists though, and it is wisely packaged within optional content. You’ll need to rescue a set number of Astro Bots within each world to unlock the boss battle at the end though, so some exploration is mandatory. Those boss battles are epic, grandiose, and most importantly a whole lot of fun.
Those words describe the game as a whole, really. Astro Bot Rescue Mission is just a ton of fun from beginning to end, and that can’t be said about a lot of other games like it. Crafting an enjoyable VR platformer is already tough, given the relative lack of experience within the genre on VR. SIE Japan Studio pulled it off exceptionally well here, with a game that is first a fun and enjoyable platforming adventure and second a demonstration of how that can work in VR.
Graphics and sound play into this as well. The PS4 isn’t the most capable VR gaming machine out there, with PC VR marking a huge leap in terms of graphical power and ability. The PSVR likewise isn’t the highest res headset on the market. And yet, Astro Bot Rescue Mission plays and looks like one of the better VR games out there. Its graphical style, featuring minimal detail with a lot of vivid color and clean lines, works perfectly on PSVR and looks simply great. The soundtrack is also worth mentioning, with tunes that will bury themselves in your mind for some time to come.
One of the few downsides to Astro Bot Rescue Mission is one we’ve seen before out of VR titles. There aren’t a ton of stages here. Thanfully though, there is a decent amount of content to dive into. The optional elements within each level make for great replay value, and hidden challenge levels practically double the amount of total stages. More dedicated fans will also enjoy the Astro Ship, where they can collect all their rescued bots, interact with them, and enjoy custom themes that they unlock through gameplay. While you won’t put hundreds of hours into Astro Bot, you will surely get your money’s worth out of the title, if you are dedicated to unlocking everything the game has to offer.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a delightful PSVR platforming adventure. It’s easily one of the best VR platformers out there, and is an excellent addition to any PSVR library. Its fun, lighthearted tone mixes with fantastic platforming game design to create a game that VR fans won’t want to miss.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission
- Available On: PS4
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: SIE Japan Studio
- Genre: Platformer
- US Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a delightful PSVR platforming adventure. It's easily one of the best VR platformers out there, and is an excellent addition to any PSVR library."