Editor's Note: Rage Works is proud to introduce some new inmates to our asylum. The husband and wife team of John and Jill (aka J and J) are our newest members! They have joined our gaming team along with Quark and I. Their review column will be known as The Burning Stone, referencing their family name. Here is their inaugural review, a breakdown of the PC racer, Astral Traveler!– Slick
Not every game has a compelling plot behind it; sometimes a rock is a rock. In Astral Traveler, the plot is simple: run for your life. There are things out to destroy you and speed is the only thing keeping you alive. Developer Dragon Slumber describes the game as follows:
You are the Astral Traveler in this arcade-style racer where the universe is at your throat and only speed and precision may overcome the odds. Blaze your way through 47 challenging tracks as you dodge obstacles at breakneck speeds, shooting down the enemy raiders blocking your path and phasing through pulsars for an extra burst of speed. Your astral core is fading, but the warp gate to the next track is just up ahead if your skills are tight enough to reach it.
Basically, run, and “don't hit nuthin'” is the aim of the game.
This Highway IS the Danger Zone
Astral Traveler feels like a classic arcade racer. As soon as you select the first “sector” and “go astral”, you’re thrust headfirst into the game with no explanation as to what your objective is or even how to play. My first game consisted of my vehicle sitting stationary in the middle of the roadway; the timer mocking me as I tried multiple keys while shaking the mouse furiously. I was expecting a quick prompt to inform me how to play, however no such prompt popped up. It was not until I looked the controls up in the options menu that I was able to make any progress in the level. Astral Traveler doesn’t utilize the typical ASDW + Mouse configuration, but rather the entire home row it seems. This setup made John look as if he were writing a letter or document; his fingers typing madly as he attempted to dodge, phase, fly, shoot and jump around obstacles and enemies during his playthrough.
Once we had (somewhat) mastered the controls, John and I were able to progress through multiple levels. Each level adding new challenges including terrain, obstacles, and enemies. The game also shows a ghost of your previous run through for those of us who like to try and beat our own times and a leaderboard to compete against friends and others.
A Mixed Graphical Bag
Let's make one thing clear: Astral Traveler is $5 on Steam. Remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for?” Well, you get even more from this game. The graphics are nothing especially mind-blowing, but there are some cool effects to be seen. The enemies are very simple in design and kind of look like something out of Star Fox with their vector designs. You won't care about that though because you will be busy moving at light speed.
This is not a “stop and appreciate the scenery type of game.” The fact that it has a smooth framerate is about all you'll need to know. So what if the graphics aren't extraordinary; as long as we could tell the road from the obstacles, we were happy.
Verdict: Does Astral Traveler Need a TSA Check?
We had a lot of fun with Astral Traveler once we got used to the controls. That was probably the biggest complaint that the game was not simple pick up and play. An update to add some kind of tutorial would definitely be appreciated. Once you get past the control scheme, Astral Traveler is a fun and inexpensive racing experience. Here is a sample of our experience with the game:
John: “Pick up the pace!” “Fly down. Fly down. Fly down.” “Ok, now why are we stopped?”
Jill: “Hold up ‘ghost me’ or I will dropkick you in the throat!
If you are new to Steam, this would be a great way to spend that mandatory $5 they want from you.
DISCLAIMER: Astral Traveler game code provided to RAGE Works for review.