The release of ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission, coming Tuesday, will be a genre-defining moment for VR platforming on PSVR. The game is expertly designed, animated, and rendered. Full of charm and the right amount of content, Astro Bot Rescue Mission is the first title we’ve scored 10 out of 10 since the launch of PSVR nearly two years ago.

ASTRO Bot Rescue Mission Review Details:

Official Site

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: JAPAN Studio
Available On: PlayStation VR (PS4, PS4 Pro) [Exclusive]
Reviewed On: PS4 Pro
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018

Gameplay

Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a spin-off of a mini-game called ‘Robots Rescue’ that was part of The Playroom VR, a free collection of co-op mini-games bundled with PSVR and created by Sony Interactive Entertainment’s JAPAN Studio. While the co-op is gone, Astro Bot Rescue Mission brings a heaping helping of single-player fun as you guide the adorable ASTRO, the captain bot, on a quest to recover his bot friends who have been scattered among the stars.

Gameplay in Astro Bot Rescue mission is most closely related to a platformer, but instead of typical side-scrolling, you’ll actually be traveling forward through each level as you follow behind ASTRO (who is controlled with the PS4 gamepad). Even though you’re on rails yourself, levels happen all around you as you guide ASTRO up, down, under, and over in clever ways that do a great job of taking advantage of the rich depth and scale afforded by VR.

Hearkening back to seminal platformers like Donkey Kong Country (1994)Astro Bot Rescue Mission lures players around the environment with shiny coins to collect from one platform to the next, with eight of ASTRO’s little bot friends hiding in each level waiting to be found.

While the path forward is usually easy to see, observant players will find secret passages in places that others didn’t think to look. For the most part, the majority of the bots to be found in every level are easy to see if not hear, but a few are usually tucked away in these secret spots, making it almost a guarantee that you’ll revisit some of the levels to find the bots you missed the first time around.

The game is constantly introducing new mechanics and scenarios to the underlying platforming while managing the keep gameplay highly intuitive and not overwhelming the player, making the whole bout feel engaging and fun throughout.

Some of the most interesting and interactive gameplay comes with the virtual tools that are equipped to your gamepad in certain stages. You’ll come across a grappling hook, a water gun, a shuriken launcher, and more, all of which task you with aiming your motion tracked gamepad into the game world to help ASTRO along his way.

Light combat also graces the game, giving ASTRO two ways of damaging enemies: punching or lasering (with the lasers that shoot out of ASTRO’s boots, also functioning as a double-jump). There’s only a handful of enemy types, most of which die in one shot. While there’s a few sub-varieties of each enemy type, I would have liked to see a greater variety of enemies facilitating a wider range of player tactics.

Players will need to have collected a certain number of bots to unlock the boss of each world they visit, though in my playthrough I never once had less than the number of bots needed to unlock the boss, so this will probably only restrict less experienced gamers. Even so, after completing the game I revisited several levels to find some of the missing bots; the gameplay is so enjoyable that it doesn’t feel anything like a grind, and instead feels like a fun challenge.

Each of the six boss fights is a remarkable encounter with a giant baddie bot, expertly animated and filled with personality. The encounters put typical boss-battle structures to great use in VR, as bosses establish attack patterns that ramp up in complexity throughout the fight, escalating through several stages as the boss takes damage. The battles involve both ASTRO and the player, as you’ll need to use one of the virtual tools to help defeat the boss. While the game normally gives the player just one hit point, you’ve got three in boss battles. Hitting the right notes of fun and challenge, it’s very satisfying to win the fight on the first try.

Each level also has a single chameleon hidden somewhere which is collected by looking at it long enough to activate it. The chameleons blend in to whatever surface they’re on, but make a signature sound which will give you a good idea of where to start looking. Each chameleon you find unlocks 1 of 26 Challenge stages.

The Challenge stages are a significant addition to the game’s content, and instead of being mere filler (like timed or reversed versions of existing stages), most are completely custom mini-levels—some even including gameplay which doesn’t exist in any of the main levels—many of which are genuinely challenging and will have you trying over and over again to achieve either a silver or gold rank. The only repeated content in the Challenge stages are the game’s six boss fights in which you’re tasked to defeat the bosses without taking any damage. Frankly, the boss fights are so fun that this didn’t feel like filler either as they’re worth experiencing more than once.

The bots that you rescue in each level are all gathered back at the ASTRO BOT ship, which you can visit at any time. Inside you’ll find all of the bots that you’ve rescued, and you’ll be able to run, jump and play around with them as they follow ASTRO wherever they go. With hundreds of bots to be rescued, it becomes increasingly fun (and impressive from a technical standpoint) to watch the little critters swarm around the room, jumping on trampolines and going down slides in pursuit of ASTRO.

Screenshot by Road to VR

Inside the ship you can also spend the coins you’ve collected to activate a virtual claw machine where you can fish for differently colored spheres, each containing a miniature vignette of the game’s environments and enemies. Each color corresponds to a treasure chest in the ship which upon activation replaces the ship’s interior with a play set that that ASTRO can explore. Unfortunately when the chests are loaded the rescued bots disappear, but as you collect more pieces of each set, the scenes become increasingly interactive with enemies and articulating elements.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Astro Bot Rescue Mission was a $60 game given its tremendous polish and excellent game design. And yet it’s priced at $40 which feels like an especially good value for what’s included. It took me nearly nine hours to complete all of the stages, including unlocking all of the challenge stages and achieving at least a silver rank in each. While I missed a few of the chameleons (which unlock the Challenge stages) in my first go through the main stages, it didn’t feel much like a chore to go back and find the remaining holdouts, especially because the reward was new Challenge stages to play.

Immersion

Image courtesy SIE JAPAN Studio

Astro Bot Rescue Mission makes excellent use of scale and space. Not only will levels have ASTRO running on the left and right of the player, often times the bot will be high above or way below, forcing you to look far down you to see where you’re guiding ASTRO. These moments make great use of the headset’s stereoscopy, especially at times when ASTRO jumps on a trampoline and comes rocketing back up to the player’s level. Every once and a while you’ll need turn around, nearly facing backgrounds, to guide ASTRO to a secret. Sometimes you’ll need to lean forward to get a new perspective when it seems like there’s no way forward.

While the bulk of the action in Astro Bot Rescue Mission involves guiding little ASTRO around each level, the player exists in the world too, and the game creates fun scenarios which remind you of this fact. Importantly, the player’s PS4 gamepad, tracked by the camera, is always represented inside the game. Not only is this a smart and simple way to make sure players can see which buttons to hit as they are coming to grips with the controls, but it’s also used a smart opportunity to let the player feel like they’re reaching right into the game world.

That’s especially apparent in some levels where a chest appears in front of the player and asks to insert the gamepad as a key to unlock the chest. Upon doing so, the gamepad gets locked into the key slot as the chest opens up and reveals a virtual tool that will become equipped to the gamepad for use throughout the level.

Image courtesy SIE JAPAN Studio

One of the more frequently used tools is the grappling hook. Flicking the touchpad on the PS4 gamepad ejects the hook in the direction the gamepad is facing. Players will use the grappling hook to defeat enemies, reveal passages, and occasionally as a tightrope for ASTRO to climb across.

Your head is also at times an important tool, as you’ll be asked to headbutt certain obstacles, or look at which target that you want ASTRO to throw a ball. Thoughtful effects grace your visor, like water droplets that roll down your view after being submerged in water, or goo balls shot by certain enemies which obscure your vision (shake your head to throw it off!).

Although the player is made to be present in the world, I didn’t find any instances in the game where taking damage yourself (as opposed to ASTRO) would result in any real consequences. That said, if you get hit by something that would hurt ASTRO, a ‘broken screen’ effect is shown on your headset which gives you the small consequence of slightly obscuring your vision before it fades away.

Screenshot by Road to VR

While Astro Bot Rescue Mission doesn’t quite incite Presense (the feeling that the virtual world around you is actually real), it does create a rich and engaging world. Levels are flush with environmental details that respond to seemingly everything you do; whether that be the way that ASTRO’s lasers make ripples in lava or how enemies react to getting sprayed with water, everything feels alive.

From top to bottom, Astro Bot Rescue Mission is impeccably animated and rendered. Objects gleam with realistic reflections and glow, and explode or react with beautiful effects and sounds that are consistently satisfying, from collecting a chest full of coins to discovering a secret passage by destroying a false wall.

Image courtesy SIE JAPAN Studio

While spatial audio is used to help the player locate some of the more challenging hidden bots and chameleons, the audio channel is at times overcrowded with everything that’s happening, sometimes making it difficult to understand where sounds are coming from. Some levels start with no music and minimal sound effects, a nice respite from the otherwise heavily populated audio channel.

While the game’s music is certainly catchy in the moment, I didn’t find that it established particularly memorable themes, which is a shame considering that a great game deserves a great soundtrack. Still, the music was at least fitting throughout, matching the game’s fun and cheerful theme.

Comfort

Screenshot by Road to VR

Although ASTRO winds up running all over the place, for the most part the player is floating forward at a steady rate along a perfectly straight invisible rail. Every few levels will have ASTRO and the player get on an elevator that takes them diagonally up or down to a new section of the level. While this could bother some of the most sensitive players, for me the slow and consistent pace of the movement was easily tolerable and I never found myself feeling any amount of nausea.

If you’re keen on digging up all of the game’s secrets, you’ll have to occasionally crane your neck straight up, down, or look directly behind you. This can be a little uncomfortable depending upon your seating arrangement, but it happens infrequently enough that it isn’t a bother.

Astro Bot Rescue Mission relies somewhat heavily on 3D depth to help players judge jumps, especially when ASTRO is far away from the player. Players without strong stereo vision may find the game more challenging than others. Smart cues like ASTRO’s lasers (which shoot directly downward from his legs while double jumping), are useful to help gauge landings.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
10

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  • gothicvillas

    Hehe sounds real good. Sorry I might have missed, is there a known pricetag?

  • R-Yu Red-E

    I can tell from the trailer that this is an actual full game, unlike most of vr and the extended experience feel

  • HybridEnergy

    Meh

    • Graham

      Oh dear, the pc or nothing boys are out…..

      • HybridEnergy

        Nah

  • MosBen

    Sounds cool. I know that games like Lucky’s Tale aren’t the most engaging VR experiences, but I do think that they’re pretty neat, and a familiar window into VR. I wish that there were more of them.

    • mellott124

      Astrobot is a next generation Lucky’s Tale. I was wow’d by Lucky’s tale originally but got bored quickly. Astrobot is just down right fun and it fits very well as a VR game. The interactions are surprising even though I’ve used VR for over 20 years now. They did quite a nice job.

      • namekuseijin

        > used VR for over 20 years now

        is that you, Neo?

        • AtmosContagion

          There was VR back in the 90s and even prior to that in labs (or even before that if you count other similar mediums constrained to the tech of those eras).

          The Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA, USA, for example, actually had VR, AR, e
          and other similar exhibits for a while back in the late 90s.

          There were many other places that had similar tech from the infamous Dactyl Nightmare game to the failure of the Nintendo VirtualBoy among other examples of VR tech.

          • namekuseijin

            Cool, we all know it was being developed in secret labs by bright people, we all read about it in magazines.

            But this is really the first time it actually comes into consumer hands for a mainstream audience. No doubt thanks to research from back then and also to wii 10 years ago, to 3D tvs, etc

  • Graham

    Wow, what a review – my interest levels in this have just jumped up big time!

  • Blankfrak70

    Nice review, great to see the full game lives up to the promise of the original mini game. Also great to see a PSVR game, a platform often derided by some commenters on this site as inferior because it’s on a console, get the first 10/10 on RoadtoVr

  • Tom Daigon

    Damn, I HATE 3rd person VR games!

    • Nobody55

      Yet you should checkout this game or Moss…

    • camnpat

      Both in this game and in Moss you are a being in that world, which means technically this is a first person game where you are following other characters in the world.

      • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

        Well played haha.. though the technicality doesn’t change the fact that you are controlling a character from a 3rd person view, even if you simultaneously exist as a separate character with a first person view.

        Edit: Should have said I like the idea of these games though. If it weren’t for Black Ops 4 and Fallout 76, I’d have gotten Moss on sale last week and Astro Bot at launch. Also plan to get Ghost Giant which is similar in concept but seems like it won’t be as good as Moss or Astro Bot.

        • camnpat

          ;)

      • namekuseijin

        of course, there’s no possible way for any game in VR to be anything than in first-person – you’re right there!

        that said, being right there just being some cameraman and sidekick may be cool sometimes – like in this extraordinaire game – but I really hope it doesn’t become the norm for lazy gamers….

        • camnpat

          I don’t believe there is reason to be concerned about becoming the norm. The reality is that right now we are experiencing the second wave of VR games where developers are more familiar and comfortable with the technology while still testing different gameplay methodologies. As such there is still that eagerness to attempt new things or, at least, different ideas.

          In the case of Astro Bot specifically people fell in love with Robo Rescue in The Playroom VR so switching the perspective from that third person to first person inside Astro would have been changing dramatically what people loved about the original mini game. But yet we have had other platformer games in first person such as To The Top.

          Point simply being that there is no need to worry about the perspective used in this game anymore than worrying that still the vast majority of VR games are first person in nature.

    • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

      I didn’t like the one I played much.. the one on the first PSVR Demo.. title was something like Alumette.. I dono. Anyway I think Astro Bot and Moss look good. Even most 1st person games suck in VR right now haha.. don’t think it’s the viewing angle so much as the implementation.

      • Alexisms

        If you were trying to play Alumette there’s your problem right there: it’s not a game it’s a story told in vr.

        • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

          Not a game indeed.

  • Jika

    World’s loudest meh earns a 10/10. News at 11′

    • benz145

      Yeah because we’ve never played any VR games around here and don’t know anything about good game design ; ).

      • Graham

        Well put – it’s very sad how some people see the comments section solely as a means to put a negative “hilarious” comment

        • Ucouldntbemorewrong

          Some folks are just hurt by how many high quality exclusives are coming out for PS4 and now godforbid PSVR. I mean ya gotta feel their hurt…right?

  • Had the chance to interview the developer at egx berlin https://youtu.be/wBrBOZLqjCc

  • Nobody55

    Having played the Playroom VR, I definitely back up the reviewer. The rescue mission level was absolutely amazing and brilliant!
    I’m so glad that games of such quality are finally coming to VR!

  • JesuSaveSouls

    I just got a ps and a vr but it doesnt work.Thought a ps and any vr headset would make it come together and become psvr.Doesnt work.Lol,only jokes but seriously thought when psvr came out it was going to make every ps title play in vr.

    • JesuSaveSouls

      Like dolphinvr does for gamecube and psp.

  • Toby Zuijdveld

    Haven’t seen a reviewer do anything short of gush over this game. Y’all starting to make me think I should buy it.

    • David Herrington

      I would check out the Robot Rescue demo that is free in the PS store first. I got bad nausea when I played it.

  • Bitekr

    I was hoping to stop on Firewall Zero Hour for this year. This game was not on my radar but with some many positive reviews on the same level as Spider-Man and good of war I think I will need to pick it as well. But first let me finish moss and other few PSVR titles. I have so many games and so little time

    • camnpat

      You haven’t finished Moss?!!! C’mon: what are you waiting for?!!!

      ;)

    • Ucouldntbemorewrong

      God can’t add any more games. Firewall and Spider-man have all my gaming time. Guess I’ll add this to the list for next month with RDR2…Arghhh!

  • Lucidfeuer

    But how can it have these graphics without RTX?

    Joke aside, while Sony’s JapanStudio can do no wrong, although I despise the stupid name (why not just a sober “Astro Bot”), I don’t know what you’re on to give a 10.

    Landscape Design and art is not great at all, and gameplay is a pot-pourri of lots of already existing games (like the several Mario Sunshine cues). An 8.5 maybe at most, but if you give 10 that easily your reviews will start losing value.

    • camnpat

      Sooo you are saying that because they gave a 10 (for the first time) they give 10s too easily? …. Mmmkkkayyyy…

      And if staples of the genre bother you I hate to break it to you- but you have an issue with the genre in general for the last 30 years including all the Mario games in that span.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Your post doesn’t make sense. Mario Sunshine is not a staple of the genre it’s a unique take in the genre. And yes by definition when you give any 10 that is universally recognise as particular “staple” of gaming, which Astro Bot probably isn’t as great as it is, you give 10s to easily which devalues your ratings.

        • benz145

          Astro Bot absolutely is and will be a staple of PSVR and VR platforming specifically for some time to come.

          As someone who knows about VR, you should know more than anyone else that it’s hard to judge VR content without playing it yourself, so don’t forget to keep your opinions in check before you actually have a chance to play the game. I hope you do, it’s a lot of fun and well made.

          • Lucidfeuer

            As I mentioned, I would probably give it objectively a 8.5 (which is great) but indeed I have to play it. Yet I know my rating won’t be different, since everything to be known is showcased in the video. To each their own criterias for ratings, but to me 10 means almost perfect, I hope R2V just won’t turn into an IGN-like website of which the ratings have become so irrevelant because of upratings that nobody even mentions them anymore.

          • benz145

            The point I’m trying to make is that I think it’s premature for you to presume what you’d rate it, even though you haven’t actually played it. Even in the clips in the review above and the things I said, I avoided talking about some parts of the game so as to not spoil them for players. So there’s very likely things you don’t know about the game.

            Road to VR has been around for seven years, and this is the first game we’ve ever given a 10 out of 10. You don’t need to worry about us inflating review scores, that I promise.

          • Lucidfeuer

            I will play the game this week-end because it looks great. But I can guarantee you that my appreciation won’t change (or much), otherwise I would be out of a job :)

          • Graham

            Wow – what an amazing super power you have. You can just look at a video of a game and know it’s rating! You should become a reviewer as you’d save loads of time not actually playing the games like these guys do – you can just use your magic….

    • Alexisms

      Firstly “why not just a sober “Astro Bot” “. Probably because they will be releasing more games featuring Astro Bot(s). You could have worked that one out for yourself.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Actually the fact that it has a completely different naming base than Playroom VR which it’s based on, and a pretty bland but long name for a first title, is not a great way to start, but that’s really just a detail.

        • Alexisms

          What a stupid thing to get hung up on. Didn’t hinder “Mario Bros”. Can’t get much more bland (in your words) than that. Criticism for criticisms sake?

    • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

      The way I see it 10’s are not perfection; they are just comparisons to the best games of the same category. To be the best of VR is a much, much, much lower bar than most genreas outside of VR. The trick is, you won’t find a better 3rd person VR platformer, so this game is currently defining the new standard for a 10. That’s not an exact rule for rating or anything, as even the best game would get docked if it had unforgivable flaws.

      I def feel you if what you are saying is that if, for example, Witcher 3 were the basis for the 10, this game would get like a 4 at best. The kitty gloves come off when rating Witcher 3. Another example of high ratings for less impressive experiences is Zelda Breath of The Wild. It got great reviews because people compared it to Nintendo and Zelda, even suggesting it was innovative despite the fact that there wasn’t a single feature that hasn’t been in dozens of games. Sure it was fun but long before the game came out the director himself said it was Zelda with Western influence. With ratings, it’s all relative.

      I haven’t played Astro Bot, but I imagine I wouldn’t give it a 10 just for being the best of class, and would probably go with an 8. Maybe my opinion will change when I play it.

      • Lucidfeuer

        I don’t think Astro Bot has to be compared to other games like Zelda or Witcher. I just think there are objective criterias and aspects to judge any title by, and again while Astro Bot seems great I can clearly tell by what is shown that this is not a 10. Giving out 10 in any domains as easily as that waters down both the efforts in the genre but also the value of the rating, which is why I’m hung up on that.

        • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

          Gotcha. I personally cant help compare to Mario and DK. No way the music is as good gaha. I will probly play Smooth McGroove on Spotify while I play haha. If you havent checked him out, loads of fun to game to his music. He does a capella for classic gaming songs. Lots of Nintendo and Sonic. Really changes the vibe haha, kinda silly but really good.

      • namekuseijin

        > if, for example, Witcher 3 were the basis for the 10, this game would get like a 4 at best

        apples and oranges…

        • KLEEBAN KLIBAN

          Yea, that was kind of my whole point lol

  • camnpat

    It’s sad some people can’t stand a reviewer giving a game he liked a 10 simply because they dislike VR, the platform it is on, or the fact it is not a game on their platform of choice.

  • impurekind

    Well this is one for the naysayers: A VR game that’s in third person and you’ve given it a 10/10. Impressive stuff.

  • kool

    I can see why this got a 10. He didn’t name one flaw, that’s how you deduct points. This and Moss are pretty tight games with no bugs and fully fleshed out gameplay. The only flaw I see is no local multiplayer which I hope gets added in later.

  • mellott124

    I bought and tried this game after reading the review. This game is fantastic. It’s one of those WOW moments in VR. Things look nice, interaction is more than I expected with peering around walls, you have to look around or you miss things. It’s the Super Mario/Sonic of VR right now. Very well done. I don’t tend to like VR games these days without hand controllers but this one is quite good.

  • CHEASE

    Interesting that the first 10/10 VR game is a traditional platformer. Were the first great films just books transcribed to a screenplay?

  • WOW, 10!!

    Honestly I think that this is not the best type of game for VR, but it seems that Sony has done an amazing job!

  • AtmosContagion

    I have to agree it’s a good platformer in general, but it’s pretty bare bones when it comes to the VR aspects.

    In fact, it doesn’t go much beyond a game like Lucky’s Tale when it comes to VR; pretty much add a water pistol or something and it’s the exact same level of VR interaction. It does go a bit beyond other VR platforming games like Lucky’s Tale in the general design (boss fights, etc.), because I would be hard pressed to go above an 8/10 for Lucky’s Tale.

    That said, I can’t really fault the review for its Astrobot score either (I mean, maybe a 9/10 at lowest) because its definitely a solid platformer in general and it’s VR aspects work well, however minimal that may be.