Game developers can have a difficult job when it comes to selecting a game title for a new game. When Astroraid landed in my inbox, I was sure I'd received an Asteroids clone, but that isn't what I found. Astroraid is most akin to Galaxian, with you taking the role of a starship pilot against wave after wave of attacking nasties.
It's possible that you might not have played Galaxian. If that's the case, then imagine a slightly harder version of space invaders, with the aliens able to fire back, swoop, and generally gang-up on you. To counter such threats you are given powerups such as weapon upgrades and shields.
Astroraid follows the Galaxian formula pretty closely. Each attacking wave introduces either a new type of enemy, or a different attack pattern and, with a little skill, you'll find yourself breezing through the first 10 waves. This progression is helped by the weapon upgrades that are dropped during play, giving you an improved arsenal.
Weapons are usually the meat of an action shooter like this, but I only ever found the most basic of weapons available to me. The starter weapon of a single shot is upgraded to duel-shot, then tri-shot and finally to a 5-shot gun. If better weapons exist, I didn't find them, and this is the first of Astroraid's problems. Losing a life in Astroraid downgrades your weapon. A standard practice I know, but other factors make this downgrade a sore point.
Difficulty is the next issue to rear its head. I mentioned earlier than you can whizz through 10 waves without many problems, and that is true. Beyond that, the game conspires against you to force a loss of life. One wave had me lose three lives, as enemy ships and bullets filled the screen - knowing what was coming and having full shield strength didn't help matters.
Graphically, Astroraid is a very polished affair. All sprites and backgrounds are nicely rendered and the whole game has a clean look to it. Music is also a high point, and for once, didn't grate during play. Sound effects are the usual functional affair and suit the game well.
Another high point that I should mention are the controls. Unlike most other games of this genre, you get to control your ship with the mouse in Astroraid. Normally I wouldn't want to, but the mouse control fits perfectly with the pace of the game, with left mouse button firing primary guns, and the right button firing your finite supply of rockets. Definately a nice touch!
So, with impressive graphics, sound and control, but poor weapons and difficulty, how do you rate a game like Astroraid? Well, the one thing I've yet to mention is how much fun you have whilst playing. Frustration can get the better of you in places, but the game lures you in for another try - after all, you might have better luck next time.
The fact that I've left this game installed after the review is testament to the replay factor of Astroraid. Yes, it can be unforgiving, and no, I still haven't found the big guns, but it doesn't matter. I've so far made my way to Wave 16 and I'll get to 17 at some point.
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