Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
All this has happened before: A space cadet crashes on a mysterious planet, armed with only a gun, unaware that new and terrifying powers/enemies await them. Metroid set the stage not only for a long-running game series, but also a series of clones (e.g., K.O.L.M.) that borrow from the space noir themes of the original. It’s a classic video game trope nowadays, the Metroid-like title.
Astronot is, at first, like a slimmed-down Metroid port for the iOS. You’re a garbage-ship worker who crash-lands on a foreign surface where you must plunge the depths to survive. You collect items that boost your jump ability and your gunfire. “Yada yada, give me the wave beam and call it a day,” you might think.
But as Astronot continues, its world morphs into something more open and rich. This is despite its spartan feel—for starters, there’s no map, so you’re forced to track progress entirely in your head (or, for the brave, not at all, wandering aimlessly). Enemies are two to three times your size, and the different worlds, each with its own 8-bit score, are full of pitfalls hidden behind the stark graphics. Astronot is the rare work that is blatantly inspired by another game yet finds depth by stripping its inspiration down for parts.