It’s a little known fact, that by the year 2153 convoys of giant space trains will rule the markets of intergalactic transportation. The Phenomenon known as Astroloco manifests as battles between these large cruisers in a fight for territory. Marauders also are known to arrive unexpectedly and loot valuables wherever they can find them during these uncertain times.
Hungry Planet Game’s latest adventure title, “Astroloco: Worst Contact” depicts a single incident between two rival companies in this era for our better understanding and enjoyment. Gilbert Station, owned and operated by train aficionado Mr. Burrows and maintained by Ronald, a janitor and mechanic. Gilbert Station’s fastest train, “The Comet” is piloted by the brash and courageous Arianne. Opposing Mr. Burrows and company is Dirk McScoundrel, who runs Badger Railroads. Dirk wants nothing more than to buy out Gilbert Station and claim the territory for his own business.
After Mr. Burrows orders Arianne to tear a hole in a planet for a train passage he read about on a mysterious note, an invasion of aliens are headed to destroy Gilbert Station. It’s up to Arianne and Ronald to save the day.
Astroloco is point and click adventure that takes little to no time at all getting used to. Left-click to inspect and item, and right-click to interact with it. If there are no uses for that item, the character will tell you. Players unfamiliar to point and click adventures can expect a low-pressure go-at-your-own-pace adventure. Ronald can use his handy spanner, hammer, and screwdriver to aid him as he re-supplies Gilbert Station with arms to defend against the aliens. Arianne has a laser gun, and can shoot her way through many problems by hitting distant targets and neutralizing enemies.
The visuals in the game are a quirky mix of computer drawn background images and pixellated 8-bit generation style characters. The people have a jolly sway their arms when they walk around and move their entire heads when they talk, like gabbing fish. The dialogue this game can be lengthy at times but the jokes and silly animations keep the player engaged. Ronald and Arianne have very coy way of connecting the player to the game by talking to them directly at some moments, the narrator too holds conversations with the main characters and does not just dictate what they do.
The narrator often makes interjections that keep the player at the right mood to follow along. When the plot seems mundane the enthusiastic voice booms in and offers a comedic release that re-sparks interest with a quick chuckle. The game has a lot of wordplay and conversational humor often associated with British television and cinema. Astroloco also makes great references to modern classic video games as well like Fallout 3 and Resident Evil 4. The entire game is funny and engaging, Hungry Planet made good use of humor to help keep the players clicking.
Shortly after the first act, players can quickly swap between the two playable characters by pressing the button on the top right corner of the screen. The player would then resume wherever they left off in that characters progression. Ronald will spend most is time in Gilbert Station while Arianne away from it. The main chunk of the game is played as Ronald exploring Gilbert Station as he re-activates the shields. re-calibrates the targets computer, fixes the cannons, and turns the station into an overall tortoise-shell to fend of the pissed off alien Kwaaps.
The music of Gilbert Station and the Astroloco world is very catchy and always right. The file select screen brings a fun classic journey through space story. There is really nothing to complain about in all aspects of the audio department. The voice acting is alive and varied. Each character is heard clearly and has a unique voice. Ronald does sound out-of-place with his American accent but that’s not necessarily bad, it is the future after all. Strangely enough, this game comes with producer commentary that can be switched on and off right from the start. The game also features the ability to turn off social commentary dialogues the characters say during the game. It’s a very politically sound option to make, yet it is not often done in many games we see today.
It’s true that this game can be completed in only a few hours but even though the game world can feel empty and minimal, there are a twenty achievements to complete that are all not obvious to get. Collectors of these achievements may also have to replay the game as some parts, such as Arianne’s opening, “pirate defense mini-game” that lacks an introduction. Completing it successfully may take a few tries. Successful or not the game plays directly and game overs are not really common. This specific scene and a few others don’t allow the player to make too may actions that actually endanger the protagonists. The characters will take a pause and remind you that they cannot simply walk into danger like a drone or unintelligent, rummaging squirrel. They will speak up, and they do not tolerate mindless suicides.
A small problem in the game progression can occur when stumped mid adventure. When Ronald is suck he can consult Mr. Burrows on his mission objectives. Using these queries is necessary to get access to some vital information, and creates and dynamic where players find a problem and are forced backtrack to the CEO’s office to find a solution, create another problem, and do it again. Fortunately the games I s played in only three short acts and is way too short for it to be a real problem.
While Astroloco is currently waiting hit the Geenlight on Steam, the game is still available on Desura, Fire Flower Games, Greenman, and more. For a great price under ten dollars a gamer can finish the game in a night or two and be fully satisfied with the experience. The ending is sadly abrupt, but not unbecoming of this hilarious plot.