Because nothing says fun like paying off $50,000 of student loans!

Welcome to Blue-Collar Astronaut, the game that will make you question if you’ll ever escape the debt that cripples you. And by that, I mean the student loans you had to take out to become a pilot for your own spaceship. This is about 50,000 of the in-game space currency, if you go for the master degree, and it will take you quite an amount of years to pay them off.

The game is played through controlling your spaceship, flying towards objectives and staying in the dashed boxes for a set amount of time, before flying towards the next objective, usually under the pressure of a timer. This is spread out over 40 levels, which are divided into Spaceship School, Pizza Delivery, and Freighter Delivery. The main issue that arises here is that the game doesn’t really feel different between any of the different parts. The start feels the same as the end, whilst the in between isn’t very distinguishable either. The two skins of Pizza Delivery and Freighting don’t give enough variety to the game to really distinguish one from another.

From what I could see from playing around, there doesn’t seem to be any change from getting the Master Degree, as opposed the standard normal one. Maybe it’s how you decide how much debt you have to pay off, but it seems rather silly to me to take on more debt for no real payoff. There’s only a single course that you keep going through, so while the different degrees could be a nice system, it doesn’t really make any impact.

The gameplay is pretty decent, but isn’t much of a step up from the moon landing flash games that have been around for years and are available on just about every game site. Blue-Collar Astronaut does have a nice damage system for your engines, where if you crash too quickly into the environment, you’ll lose an engine, which will limit your acceleration considerably. This is a great little challenge, but when you start to remember that you need as much time to stop as you do to accelerate, the challenge diminishes into a mini-annoyance.

Now, the game gives you money after each level based off of your performance. Some of these levels will only ever earn you a net loss, like one of the last missions you have to do for Pizza Delivery. You have to pilot your ship into portals, whilst having to dodge deadly laser beams from UFOs. Even if you pilot your ship with utmost perfection and skill, you’ll end up with a hospital bill of around 200 dollars. Even if you don’t get hit by anything. The mission is supposed to simulate an event, such as getting in a car accident, that would put financial strain on somebody trying to pay off their student loans, but it shouldn’t be a scripted event. Having it where every time I play the mission I get punished makes me not want to replay part of a game, which seems silly to have.

There was another mission similar to that in the Freighter missions, and it quickly dawned on me that the game is pretty much just a reskin of the same mission, over and over again. You just need to jump through one more hoop with each level, something which would normally be fun, but Blue-Collar Astronaut lacks any overall redeeming features that would constitute such a level scheme.

One thing it does have rolling for it is in the visual presentation. Blue-Collar Astronaut has hand drawn art that, for the most part, looks pretty damn nice. There are a few parts of the game, like a couple of the buildings on planets, that don’t look so nice, but the game definitely fits the graphical design needed. There are rough edges to some of the outlines, especially on the ships, that make them look more like the beaten cars that some college kids drive, and so it really sets the tone well. The only point where I could complain about the visuals are with those found in the main menu, where things just seem odd in comparison to the rest of the game. The audio however isn’t as nice as the art style, but it still has its moments where it really jives with the images on screen.

I was also pretty disappointed in regards to the achievements for the game. They’re just very lackluster, pretty obscure and don’t inspire or give any ideas of how to creatively achieve anything. Which, I suppose, is the point of this game overall. It is supposed to limit you, much like student loans can be limiting – especially to those in blue collar positions away from mining.

One of the things that is really captured well by this game though is the way you pay off student loans. You get a little bit out of each paycheck taken out to pay the principle of the loan, but you can put more of your money towards your loans by accessing an option in the menu. You can also pay off your credit cards, which are earned by completing certain levels. If one thing is for sure, you certainly get to have the satisfying feeling of paying off your student loans, all while slowly clawing your way through space.

Of course, you could just put the money from the purchase of this game towards paying off your student loans, or credit cards, and you’d get the same amount of satisfaction. Because whilst it is overall fairly decent, there just isn’t really enough satisfaction brought about by the play time, which is a shame. If Blue-Collar Astronaut allowed for a bit more in the customization stakes or just provided more diversity, then things would feel much more worthwhile.

But hey, to its credit, I did get to experience an astronomical amount of debt to pay off.

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