You’ll get to journey to the core of a lost planet in Astronite, a Metroidvania featuring a cute astronaut who has a single mission to accomplish – to succeed where his predecessors failed and journey to the core of a planet that was once called home.
You play as Astronite, an astronaut whose parents must have had high hopes for their kid to give him a name like that. The gameplay follows that of a classic Metroidvania, beginning with little old Astronite crash landing on a planet, his communications destroyed, left with no other choice but to soldier on.
It’s here where you’ll discover that the mechanics focus on three main actions: shooting, dashing, and using a jetpack. But of course, it wouldn’t be a Metroidvania if you got to keep all of those skills, so you are immediately stripped of all your gear.
Thus begins the adventure of wandering through caverns and trying to find your missing gear. The first piece of equipment to reacquire is your gun and the initial throes of Astronite rely heavily on platforming, which is something I am completely fine with. Astronite’s controls are fairly tight, and the platforming is done very well for the most part.
I say for the most part because Astronite features one extended underwater section that really does not work. That’s not to say I hate it because it’s been created poorly, overall it’s a very well constructed map and nothing about it feels unfair, but that hatred exists because underwater sections in video games are always slower and more sluggish than the rest. It’s something I personally do not want to experience in a platformer.
Outside of the water sections, and the platforming itself has been my favourite aspect of Astronite. There are several short and incredibly challenging sections to navigate, and these are extremely satisfying to complete. One of the best examples is a section that comes around halfway through the game, involving moving blocks with spikes, floating platforms, and saws. Areas reset whenever they are reloaded, so the pathways are predictable. I like this in a platformer because it allows you to build muscle memory, honing skills as you go running through difficult sections.
Then there’s the combat and that found in Astronite is incredibly straightforward. There are no special attacks or moves, apart from the dash and jetpack, but there are upgrades that can be picked up for the gun, dash, and jetpack. The gun upgrades improve rate of fire and range, while the dash and jetpack upgrades decrease recharge time and improve functionality.
There are also some additional upgrades which can be purchased from the in-game store. These include your map module (very important), the ability to learn enemy names and see their health (much less important and something I never bothered to buy), and even an upgrade for double damage (which you probably won’t be able to afford).
This store has some helpful upgrades which are important to get, specifically the map module, but beyond that I rarely found myself going back to it. That’s mainly because Astronite is also technically a Souls-like game. I don’t mean it’s the “Dark Souls” of platformers, but you do drop all of your currency upon death and have to recollect it before dying again. Frankly, I found Astronite challenging enough without this system in place and it felt unnecessary. It’s also implemented in a way in which whenever you collect your dropped money, the game would pause as the notification pops up.
This is an issue because dying during an elaborate platforming section almost guarantees the loss of your money. Whenever you collect it, you’ll find that it will throw off your timing and manoeuvring. In fact, often your best chance at success will be to die again, so that money would disappear, leaving you to run the section without interruption. Obviously the downside to that if you lose your cash, you’ll struggle to buy the upgrades you want. As a result, you may well find yourself finishing the game without many of the upgrades.
This in turn makes the boss fights a bit more challenging, but not impossible. Once their move sets and timings are figured out, they become much more manageable.
Astronite has a very classic Game Boy feel. It’s challenging, there are designated save locations, and the stylized artwork works very well for the game. There is however a lack of music throughout, and whilst Boss fights have a specific theme and then each area does have a sound, but there isn’t much to the soundtrack at all.
In all, Astronite is a solid Metroidvania that, whilst having some shortcomings, still manages to play out as a fun game. You’ll probably beat it in three to five hours, more if you work on collecting every upgrade and exploring the entire map, struggling with some sections as you go.
Astronite is on the Xbox Store