Feb 17, 2011
What is the one sin that a game absolutely cannot commit? It must not be so boring that I want to stop playing…and to top that, it must not give me a good reason to stop when I’m ready to stop. Astral Commander is a path management game, similar to Flight Control, though your goal in this game is to collect resources to continue powering your base. You do this by commanding resource collecting units to pick up crystals that spawn on the map, drawing their paths, trying to keep them from colliding with each other, with the ultimate goal being to send them off screen with a full assortment of crystals. However, you not only have hazards on the various levels to avoid, you also have enemies that will pop up and attack you, which you take out by tapping on them to fire at them. There are 20 campaign levels, with 4 survival levels available.
Astral Commander’s gameplay is enjoyable at first – the game initially does a great job at getting you into the game, gradually introducing you to the controls and units, and finally combat, before removing the training wheels and letting you collect elements and fight enemies all on your own! You’re a big boy now! Also, it’s nice to see a path management game that’s both forgiving, unlike a “one mistake and it’s game over” game like Flight Control, as losing a unit isn’t the end of days, though it will cost you points towards getting a better medal. Astral Commander also comes with online high score support for the game’s 4 survival levels, unlocked by completing the campaign mode.
The problem with Astral Commander? The game just drags on and on. The pace of the game is just too slow – if the game played at double speed, it might be more interesting, as everything just moves too slowly for there to be much risk, until about halfway through level 3 when the game becomes much harder as your energy levels drop almost impossibly fast suddenly, but by this point, I was so disengaged that I just didn’t care much any more. This isn’t a difficulty curve – this is a difficulty mountain. The game’s introductory levels add elements to the game in a way that promises that the game will add more, but then the game just stops adding new elements. There needs to be something more. This is like a Doritos bag – it looks like there’s far more Doritos than there actually are when you open up the bag. And in this case, the Doritos are actually generic brand nacho cheese chips, as it’s just a bland path management game.
Really, it’s a shame that this one is disappointing. This is a genre that can be extremely exciting and can have layers to it – but the game squanders its promise. Play the Lite version, but just the Lite version – you’ll get all the fun you want out of that version.