Some people say I’m a glutton for punishment; I disagree. I just enjoy games that present a challenge. For me, if the game isn’t challenging, I can’t justify playing it instead of doing something more productive. Why do I have to justify it? I don’t know…sadly for me, there are just so many games out there that don’t have that challenge. Hard is medium. Medium is easy. Easy is auto win; a truly sad state of affairs. Luckily for me I stumbled upon Astro Tripper.
Astro Tripper is a pretty simple game. Step one: don’t die. Step two: kill all of the enemies before time runs out. Step three: bask in your glory. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Not really that complex, and very reminiscent of arcade games of old. There are two modes to Astro Tripper: Adventure and Challenge. In Adventure mode you have access to four stages that have three levels each. You are placed on a platform with an overhead camera. The platform for each level is slightly different, but they all have the same theme of the current stage you’re in. From stage to stage, the platforms are radically different.
The central point of the game is to control your ship deftly and kill everything you see. You will need to dodge enemy projectiles while killing all incoming hostiles. Some enemies grow more powerful overtime, transforming into other types of enemies; so your best bet is to destroy all of your adversaries as quickly as possible. You have two weapons. The first, and probably most used one, is the focus fire. These beams will shoot directly in front of you. Your second weapon is a beam that has a wide spread and does not fire directly in front of you at all, leaving you wide open from the mid. You will find power-ups as you destroy enemies, causing your weapons to become stronger, shoot farther, faster, and in the case of the wide beam, provide more beams at different angles.
At the end of the third level of each stage there is a boss fight. The boss fights aren’t as difficult as fighting multiple enemies at the same time; however, the challenge with them usually comes in the fact that by the time they come out you don’t have much time left to mess around. As I mentioned before, there is a time limit to each level. Run out of time and you lose a life. It’s that simple.
Each stage looks different and brings it own unique set of hostiles with it. You will go from fighting sprites to insects to tanks, helicopters, and a few other enemy types. The enemies don’t just look different either; their fire types change as well. The opposing forces you face aren’t just re-skinned palette swaps but entirely different threats from one moment to the next. With different fire types comes different challenges, and you will need to learn to adjust accordingly.
Challenge mode is basically a timeless mode where you just try to rack up a high score. At least from what I can tell. If there is an end to a challenge mode level, I haven’t seen it. You will fight a mass group of a specific unit type that, as far as I’m concerned, are endlessly respawning. It gives the game a lot of replay value for those that enjoy racking up high scores; and it does count because there are leaderboards.
Now, about that challenge…when I first started Astro Tripper I just automatically put it on hard because I’m used to games just being so easy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that hard mode was actually hard. Hard to the point that I had to put it on easy (which wasn’t so easy to begin with) so that I could get a feel for the game before I put it back on the tougher settings. The difference between the difficulties is typically enemies firing more frequently and more enemies spawning. Also, as you progress to each stage the levels themselves become harder and longer. Let’s just say I had a hell of a time on stage four, level one. After you beat the game on hard, you will unlock another difficulty level beyond it. It’s worth it, trust me.
Overall, I had a great time with Astro Tripper. While there are only four stages, the game has a ton of replay value with multiple game modes, challenging gameplay with multiple difficulty levels, and there is no way you are getting all of the power-ups in one play through. Astro Tripper really reminds me of those old quarter eating arcade games I used to play as a kid. Bonus now is the only thing it’s eating is my time.