From PomPom Games comes Astro Tripper, a fast paced shooter that takes its gameplay arc from some very raw arcade roots. Available from the PlayStation Network Store, Astro Tripper is an evolution of PomPom’s earlier title Space Tripper, an award winning game in 2001 no less.
It’s easy to see why PomPom is marketing this game as an old-school hardcore shooter; it’s because it will appeal to just that demographic who lap this stuff up. Those people who hark back to the 8-bit days may even see some similarities to Andrew Braybrook’s classic Uridium (a game available on Wii Ware should you want to take a look).
The game’s concept has one very simple premise, lacking any storyline or background history, the goal is simply to shoot everything that moves! The player has to control a small spacecraft back and forth across a horizontally scrolling landscape. Viewed from the top-down, enemies such as UFOs, fat motherships, tanks, choppers, slimy slug creatures and even big mechanical spiders, must be crushed as soon as possible.
The weaponry to hand consists of a blue laser, which is forward firing, and a red laser that spreads across the top and bottom of the screen; killing enough enemies will drop rewards, which when collected will result in a power-up. Whilst it’s possible to get away with using mostly the blue laser, features on the maps sometimes require switching to the alternative weapon, and bosses will often require the use of both.
Like the enemy creatures, the landscapes are just as diverse. Some are organic, some are industrial, and some have a mechanised feel to them. The interesting aspect is that a number of maps have degrees of elevation, meaning that enemies approaching down a hill won’t be hit by fire if the nippy craft is hunting at the bottom, so a (small) degree of tactical positioning is involved too.
What any potential purchaser needs to bare in mind here, is that Astro Tripper, like many a yesteryear shooter, is rock hard. Fall off the edge of the platform you die. Run out of time before you’ve killed everything on the level you die. Get hit by an enemy or weapon you die. Basically you die a lot, and dying mid-level means restarting from scratch. Reaching an end-level boss means working through all preceding stages, it’s a tough calling, though surprisingly it is one which is not joypad-throwingly frustrating.
Astro Tripper doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but it is nice to see a shooter that isn’t based on the twin-stick blueprint model. Whilst the game might have the player cursing at times, chasing high-scores is the order of the day, and it’s a compelling target at that. PomPom has produced a good looking but tough playing twitch game, which fans of genre will get a kick out of. At this price it’s a persuasive proposition.