Astronite from Dume Games Studio has finally come into orbit on the Nintendo Switch having been announced earlier in 2022. The look is basic but striking and is marketed as a 1-bit metroidvania; think the ZX Spectrum era. Why make a 1-bit game in 2022 I hear you ask? ‘Well, why not?’ I counter, especially when it looks so cool!
Astronite is a metroidvania experience through-and-through as you play as a cute little astronaut who crash lands on a mysterious planet. The plot is not really elaborated upon but you begin with a full suite of powers (a dash, a jetpack etc) and you think ‘Wow, this is pretty easy’. But not for long… An evil being on the planet strips the little astronaut of all of their equipment and abilities and soon, all you have left is the ability to jump and shoot. This leads me into the first positive, to start with, Astronite is HARD. You get thrown in at the deep end which, for me, is refreshing; Dume Games certainly don’t want to make your life easy! There aren’t even any health pickups, meaning each trek from save point to save point is an ordeal, but a very rewarding and balanced one at that.
The aforementioned 1-bit visuals are definitely striking and make it stand out from the crowd. It’s a bold move to make something so simple visually but it actually feels in keeping with the environments; this is space, after all! But the stark visuals are in keeping with the desolate planet and actually make it feel all the more intimidating.
In true metroidvania fashion, you soon recover your equipment and make them stronger as you go, and some of these powerups are unlocked by a series of cool mini-games known as ‘echo rooms’. Once you receive the key to these rooms, you can track them down and complete a little arcade-inspired mini-game. One has you being chased by ghosts à la Pacman, and another has you deflecting a ball up and down the screen like Breakout. These are all incredibly fun and show that Astronite doesn’t take itself too seriously.
- A challenging but fair opening to the game
- Striking visuals
- Superb mini-games
As is the case in pretty much every metroidvania, in Astronite, there’s an in-game currency known as shpirti. When you die, you lose all of your shpirti and you have only one chance to go back to the spot where you died and retrieve it. This is all pretty typical however, one limitation here is there is no way to bank the currency and therefore, immunise yourself from losing it upon your death. What this means is that when you come to a boss encounter, you just know you’ll die a few times, especially early in the game. So if you come to the point of a boss (which is always telegraphed so you know it’s coming) and have a decent amount of shpirti in your pocket, then you’re more likely to go away and farm more shpirti so you can spend it on the next most expensive item in the shop, rather than inevitably lose it all in the boss fight. I just felt this mechanic completely broke the rhythm of the game.
The traversal in Astronite is genuinely pretty smooth and responsive, but there is this highly annoying quirk whereby if you jump too high and hit the astronaut’s head on a ceiling, they just immediately plummet vertically downwards. I died or lost health far too many times with this. Sure, it makes sense that there will be some deflection off of surfaces, but the poor old astronaut went down like a sack of potatoes every time, and it drove me mad.
Lastly, the map in Astronite is perfectly functional and visually clear, however when you come to a blocked pathway, there’s no indication on the map as to what is blocking you as there is in Metroid games and most metroidvanias in general. This meant that when I found a new key, I then couldn’t remember where to use it, meaning I went on a wild goose chase around the map trying to work out where to use it. I don’t think it should be made too easy for the player in this situation but some kind of halfway house solution would have saved a lot of time wasting and backtracking.
- Lack of currency bank
- Frustrating jumping
- Lack of detail on map
Final Score: 7/10
Astronite is pretty fun and addictive, just don’t expect a super in-depth gameplay experience because that isn’t what’s on offer here. At its price point however, Astronite offers a lot more than many other games on the market and is a must-have for any metroidvania fan looking for a short, sharp injection of all the good things that the genre has to offer.
Thank you for checking out our Astronite Switch review, thank you to Dume Games (via Funstock) for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: