In real life, there’s nothing fun about the thought of floating untethered through the infinite vacuum of space. Before long, you’d run out of air and die a cold, lonely death. In Astronut, however, air isn’t a problem, and the screen is filled with dozens of tiny planets for you to land on. So you hop from one spinning, circular platform to another while trying to avoid touching enemies on your way to the finish line. It’s kind of like Doodle Jump or Dizzypad, but your primary concern is to complete the level rather than to get a high score.
At the start it’s very easy. Each planet you land on spins you at a certain speed, and when you’re lined up with the next planet you want to reach, you tap the jump button to coast in that direction. This is pretty easy to do when you’re spinning slowly, but it becomes considerably more difficult the faster you spin. To complicate matters further, each planet on the screen has a gravitational pull that will curve your path as you pass by. To go straight, you can use a rechargeable boost power, but generally you’ll be hopping from planet to planet until you complete the level.
However, not all planets are created equal. Some are big, some are small, some are invisible or made of molten lava. Some aren’t planets at all: You can also land on black holes and giant bombs that will kill you if you don’t jump off quickly enough.
On top of the world.
Nor is outer space devoid of living things. A variety of monsters live up there, just waiting to gobble up any astronautical morsel that drifts into their vicinity. You’ll find enemies that hover in mid-air, or move along a set path, or follow you as you hop from planet to planet. You can take three hits before dying, but health power-ups and other items are scattered around each level.
Instead of making a lite version and a full version of the game, the developers have released the first four levels for free, and made the rest available as an in-app purchase for $1.99. We always like to see developers go this route, because you can try the game for free, and then keep your progress if you choose to buy the whole thing.
Basing the game on level progression is a nice change of pace for the vertical platforming genre, because it allows for more gameplay variety and a drawn-out difficulty curve. In fact, it gets a little too difficult for our tastes by the end. Too often, enemies seem to zip in and hurt you before you have a chance to avoid them. Maybe if you had some better way to attack it would fix this issue. But even still, once you’ve made it that far there’s no going back. Astronut is a fun little game that’s perfect for playing on the go.