One of the first things I tried out when I first got my PlayStation VR headset was Playroom VR, the small collection of mini-games from Sony’s Japan Studio which showed what the hardware was capable of. It was a lot of fun and had a good few quirky experiences, but the one which stood out the most was ‘Robot Rescue’ – a brilliant third-person platformer that saw you leading a little robot on a miniature adventure to rescue his friends. It was a short experience that lasted no more than ten-minutes, but it showed that virtual reality didn’t have to be primarily about first-person action titles but could also do something fun and charming with things like platformers too.
Well, it seems like Sony were well on board with that idea, because now they’ve released a full-game based on the experienced called Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. Basically, it takes the mini-game found in PlayRoom VR and expands upon it with more levels, more features and more environments to explore, and it just so happens to be bloody brilliant.
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission sends you across five colourful worlds that each offer something completely different, with dark caves and lit-up rooftops joined by the likes of exotic jungles and luscious beaches. There’s a heck of a lot to see through each of these levels too, with each one full to the brim with platforming-puzzles to solve and enemies to vanquish. There are a wide-range of collectibles to try and find too, with your robot friends (of which there are eight in each levels), coins, and Chameleons who blend in with the environment (and also unlock additional challenge levels) well-hidden across each and every level.
Controlling Astro Bot himself is easy enough, with things like jumping, gliding and fighting all assigned to the face buttons of the Dual-Shock controller. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission never complicates things all that much as far as Astro Bot’s controls are concerned, so you’ll feel right at home immediately if you’ve played any other 3D platformer over the last twenty-odd years.
Of course, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission isn’t just your typical 3D platformer, but instead one that utilises virtual reality – it’s here that the game really shines. See, whilst Astro Bot takes on the starring role, it’s up to the player and their Dual-Shock controller (which has a physical presence throughout the game) to ensure that Astro Bot’s adventure goes smoothly and that he can always reach his goal. You’ll be the one who controls his many gadgets with your giant floating controller, including the likes of a grappling hook to move things in the environment or create a makeshift rope for Astro Bot to move across, the shurikens which can wipe out pesky foes that are out of reach, or even the water cannon which can put out fires and clear pathways. These are all simple functions that are easy to get to grips with, but they ensure that Astro Bot: Rescue Mission never grows boring and that you’re always doing something different. Mix that up with controlling Astro Bot himself and you’ll find yourself having heaps of fun conquering the adventure’s many challenges.
Some of the stand out moments of the game come with the boss battles, which don’t only look mighty impressive in virtual reality but also push all of your skills to the limit. You’ll have to put both your gadgets and Astro Bot’s combat abilities to use to take them out, all whilst figuring out their attack patterns and working out their weak spots. Don’t get me wrong – they’re never really all that challenging, but they do always make for enjoyable encounters. It’s probably worth mentioning that Astro Bot: Rescue Mission isn’t a challenging game outside of these boss encounters either, with the game not only offering little resistance as far as enemies go, but also giving the player plenty of checkpoints to return to if they do find themselves failing at all.
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission deserves applause for just how fun the gameplay is, though it’s the inclusion of virtual reality that makes it the complete package. You’ll genuinely feel like your joining Astro Bot on his adventure as each startling environment surrounds you – the little hero will spend just as much time running around, above, and below you as he does right in front of you, and it genuinely feels like you’re wrapped inside each locale. You’ll have to move your head (and at times whole body) around a lot if you want to keep on top of all the action, though it’s something I’d encourage if you want to see everything that each level has to offer. Collectibles are well-hidden after all, and they’ll require a good bit of searching through each nook and cranny if you want to find them all.
It just feels so impressive seeing everything take place right in front of you. I’ve always been a fan of third-person titles in virtual reality, but the fantastic visuals (seriously, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is a very pretty game) and the charming action that takes place made for a special experience that kept me hooked in from start to end. Don’t forget though, being right there in the action has its consequences – you can expect foes to not only attack you too, but also try to block your vision. Luckily, it’s nothing that a quick head butt (seriously) or some assistance from Astro Bot won’t solve.
It should take around four hours to get through Astro Bot: Rescue Mission’s main campaign, so it’s not the largest of platforming-adventures out there. However, there are plenty of things to do in order to get more out of the game, with the aforementioned challenge levels and the countless collectibles (which are genuinely fun to find) offering a good way to sink more hours in. There’s even a grabber mini-game to spend your coins on that allows you to unlock some in-game models, whilst you can visit your spaceship for a bit of fun in-between levels too. It might not necessarily be the meatiest game you’ll play, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to do.
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission isn’t only one of the best platformers available on PlayStation VR right now, but also one of the most endearing and fun platforming experiences I’ve played across all consoles for some time. It’s full of neat and charming ideas that constantly kept a smile on my face, whilst working together with Astro Bot to conquer each hazardous world’s challenges simply never stops being enjoyable.
It is guilty of being a little too easy at times, but the wealth of collectibles and quirky extras that the game features ensure that you’ll get plenty of hours of fun out of it. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission shows that Sony are fully committed to bringing full-fledged and mighty enjoyable titles to PlayStation VR and it stands tall as one of their finest releases so far – I’m really excited to see what they do next, and hope that this the last time we’ll see Astro Bot in our headsets…
Developer: Japan Studio
Platform: PlayStation VR