[Editor's note: this review was written before the US game was released. Astro Tripper is now available in the US]
PomPom Games came straight out of their successful Xbox Live Arcade shooter “Mutant Storm”, and tried a new title the Playstation Network: Astro Tripper. In case you’re checking the US Playstation Store now, you won’t find it listed; it’s a European release only. Read on to find out how Astro Tripper stacks up in comparison to other Arcade shooters.
Most shooters you find in today’s market are “scrollers”, whether it is of a horizontal or vertical fashion. A small number of titles are “one screen shooters”, like Super Stardust HD. Astro Tripper tries to combine both types into one package: think of each level as a giant ruler. Pressing Circle flips your ship’s direction, and allows you to go east or west. Each map is about 3-4 screens long, so each level isn’t too small, or too long. There is no music to be found in Astro Tripper, your experience is entirely based on sound effects.
You won’t find enemies like Astro Tripper’s anywhere else. From killer palm trees to screaming prawns, all four worlds have something completely different to offer. In addition to being a straight action shooter, Astro Tripper is part puzzler. The main ship has two weapons: a straight fire cannon and a spread shot. Many enemies, when destroyed ,will split in a fashion that allows quick disposal if you switch to your spread shot right away. Knowing which weapons to use at certain times is key, and you’ll want to play levels over multiple times to find the “best way” to go about beating it. Almost all of the enemies in the game as evolve into a “hyper form” if you take too long to defeat them, adding to the intensity of each level.
One glaring problem with Astro Tripper is its control scheme. It’s not customizable, and in a game that requires split second button presses, it’s very frustrating. None of the shoulder buttons on the Playstation remote are used, for any apparent reason. While maneuvering around enemy fire and simultaneously shooting back, it’s tough to have to slide your thumb over constantly to press the Square and Circle buttons to change weapons and turn respectively. To ease this pain, the radar screen shown on the top of your screen is very helpful when there’s a lot going on.
Aside from the 14 levels Astro Tripper offers, there aren’t any other gameplay modes. Challenge mode is for hardcore gamers only, and simply allows you to attempt all of the levels in one of the four sets with one life. Some of the levels build up a new enemy concept that simply works, but you’ll only get to experience it for one level. The game’s replay value could have benefited greatly with a secret level that was unlocked by beating the game on the highest difficulty.
If you’re tired of the normal shooter fare, give Astro Tripper a try. As you progress through each level, the gameplay gets richer, and the enemies get a lot tougher. Like most shooters, you may run the risk of being bored, especially due to its short length, but I can assure you: it’s never been so much fun to blow up radioactive killer palm trees.
Astro Tripper has a ton of different enemy models, vibrant color schemes, and completely different looking levels, which is very refreshing for this genre.
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Even though the controls are questionable, the gameplay is very unique, and doesn’t play like “just another shooter”. Your knuckles will be sore on the harder difficulties.
PomPom Games doesn’t go out of its way to give you any music, but the game's sound effects are more than enough to get you in a “blast everything that moves” mood.
While the game isn’t multiplayer, there are 14 levels. Still, you might find yourself bored after completion.
Astro Tripper has some problems, but has enough personality to define itself from others in the genre. Overall, it’s a challenging and entertaining game.