Sawbuck Gamer


Open Spaces

Astronot iterates on the Metroid formula by keeping things minimal.

By Steve Heisler • July 16, 2012

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.

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382 Responses to “Open Spaces”

  1. Xtracurlyfries says:

    I’ve never played Metroid but this sounds great. Am I going to miss out on all kinds of references?

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      It doesn’t sound as though it’s specifically referential, but you should just do yourself a kindness and play some Metroid.

      • bunnyvision says:

        Super Metroid or Zero Mission, ideally. All the others: ehhh

        • DrZaloski says:

          I would suggest the Metroid Primes as well,  but only after you play Super Metroid. Not only are all three games great (although neither Echoes or Corruption could live up to the first), but it’s amazing how well Retro was able to bring the Mertroid franchise over to a first person perspective. Fusion’s okay, but it’s not really a Metroid game.

        • Bad Horse says:

          It sounds like, as a prep for this, you should play the original merciless NES version, with its long, barely differentiated shafts, starting pea shooter, and maplessness.

        • Xtracurlyfries says:

          You’re not selling it.

    • Asinus says:

      Since ROMs and emulators are everywhere, it’s worth at least getting the first one (and/or Super, as was mentioned). I didn’t own metroid when I had a NES, but I really like playing it now, so I think it aged well.

  2. George_Liquor says:

    Hey look, Metroid on Intellivision!

    Growing up, I only had Metroid II for Game Boy. It was a great game to be sure, but looking back now, I’m amazed I had the patience to stare at that murky green screen for hours at a time.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      I am honestly surprised to no end that there has yet to be a remake of Metroid II.  I played it a bit on a Game Boy Color emulator, but my adult self had little patience for what my eleven year-old self would have been enamored by.
         But it’s a direct sequel, introduced the Spider Ball, the Varia Suit shoulder pads and… I dunno some other stuff I’m sure.  Samus’s well-known love of pork noodles?
         But yeah, regardless, it’s not as though Nintendo is shy about exhuming it’s properties and this seems like an ideal candidate for the same treatment as the excellent Metroid: Zero Mission.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      I never had my own Game Boy until the Advance, but I once borrowed one from a friend for a weekend so I could finish Super Mario Land.  The toughest part of playing games on that  tiny screen was the horrible refresh rate…trying to jump from platform to platform while everything became a blur whenever you moved.  Once I got past that though, it was pretty fun!

      I don’t think I ever finished Metroid, even with the Nintendo Power maps and strategy guide…I think one of my step-brothers finished it instead.  (At that time they had the NES and I had a C64, so we would trade off playing games.)

      • Girard says:

         One of my most vivid real-life quests in service of a virtual quest was using my “Nintendo Power Index” to look up which back issue had the guide for Metroid II, discovering that the issue that contained it was from years before I’d begun my subscription, then dialing into our local library’s free text-only Internet from home to search their catalog, and find that the only branch with back issues that old was a 40+ minute drive away in another city. Somehow I convinced my mom to drive me out there one afternoon, and I found the issue in the stacks, and xeroxed the whole Metroid II coverage there, stapling it along the left side to make it into a proper “players’ guide.”

        Despite all that, I still haven’t beaten the game…