On the surface Astro Ace may look like a simple throwback to single screen space shooters and it largely is. What the static screenshots and gameplay don’t convey is how well Astro Ace plays and how moreish the simple arcade game becomes.
Each endless run starts off with choosing a ship and your loadout. There are 14 different weapons to pick from that unlock over time however this is just your starter weapon as pick ups to swap them out appear frequently. You can also pick your secondary and passive abilities too such as laser site, a shield or additional missiles. Its your load out and the weapons all act vastly different. Some shoot dead ahead, others are slow but home in on enemies, others fan out, some are more like melee attacks and others are like laser beams. Ships unlock with different stats too. The main ones revolve around health, bombs and turning circle and they all play a part in how you play as well as choosing your weapons. There is so much variety and customisation here, its a treat.
Into the game then and you’ll notice that you will always be moving forward but you can boost around too which is handy for avoiding enemies and their fire. Your boost is another stat that changes with each ship too along with your ammo limit. You can’t fly off screen as that’s an instant death but you can see what’s coming into play via arrows telling you where enemies are incoming from. You’ll start slow with a few ships or meteors but soon you’ll have waves of enemies flying in with mine attacks or big bosses peeking in from one side of the screen to fly a blitzkrieg at you.
Astro Ace is a challenge because whilst things are randomised, the challenge gets progressive tougher as you level up. When you hit certain score thresholds, it triggers new enemies to join the ranks and then your ship choice and weapon choice really come into play. Upgrades can be obtained by blowing up their boxes and getting double shots or better range or damage early on is often crucial to keep yourself going. The game is tough but death is always your fault. Too often I left not enough room to turn around and crashed into the screen edge or clipped a meteor. Sometimes I found I’d switched to a weapon and not adapted my playstyle, still treating short lasers like long range missiles. It catches you out if you aren’t paying full attention and that’s exactly what I wanted from this budget title.
For just £2.09, Astro Ace punches well above its weight. You’ll be playing 4 hours in still unlocking some of the last ships or weapons and deciding what is the best loadout for your playstyle. You’ll be chasing the Steam leaderboards for top spot. If anything, my only qualms about the game are down to perhaps having a timed leaderboard mode that plays the same waves repeatedly so you can have a truly legit leaderboard where everyone has played the exact same game. Perhaps, if a sequel were to come that’d be nice. For now though, this is definitely a fun action packed space shooter that has more staying power than many of its competitors at half their price.
Review copy provided by developer.
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