When I was a child, many hours were spent perched in front of an old television playing Asteroids on the Atari 2600. It seems like I was just one of many fans of the game who did the same, as the folks over at Hermit Games attempt to take the addicting gameplay of Asteroids and, according to their website, blend it “with a modern Treasure shooter, Ikaruga maybe.” The end result is ‘troid, and while the game is reminiscent of Atari’s classic, it does come a little short of the developers’ noble goals.
For those who have never played Asteroids, the premise is simple: destroy all the asteroids of varying sizes in a given playfield while avoiding collision with any of them in order to advance. The basic gameplay of ‘troid is the same, but there are quite a few twists thrown in for good measure. First of all, some of the asteroids are capable of firing bullets at the player’s ship (no, I don’t know how this is possible). In addition to these mysterious projectiles hurled from the core of evil asteroids, on certain levels there are spinning beams that the player must avoid, larger enemies that pack quite a bit of firepower, and space jellyfish that must be killed (no, I don’t know how this is possible either). Also, the playing field is surrounded by a barrier that sends the player bouncing off at an angle; many times towards impending doom. While I enjoy the challenge set forth by the various changes to the standard 'asteroid enemy' mentioned above, it is this last modification that I really didn’t like. I might have just been a mean, sadistic little kid, but one of my favorite things to do in the original Asteroids was to go kamikaze at full speed across the screen until I rammed into a floating asteroid. This was only possible because of the fact the ship would reappear on the other side of the screen once it reached the edge (much like Pac-man and various other games), and the barrier in ‘troid prevents this from happening. I suppose the player could still bounce around until a collision occurred, but it’s just not the same.
It's like Asteroids, see? I feel like Blue Danube should be playing in the background. A boss-type thing! That's hardly standard in asteroids.
The game is composed of 30 levels, and an autosave features will allow players to continue on whichever level they reached without dying a single time. For example, if the player continues on level 9 but reaches level 11 before dying for the first time, then the player gets to start at level 11. If the player continues on level 9 but dies at least once before reaching level 11, then the player must start at level 9. While this save feature is much better than none at all, it does hinder the player at times because of a seemingly random difficulty curve in the levels, especially early on. The good news is that in addition to the normal progressive game type, the player can go back and replay a level as many times as he/she wants(at half-speed even!) in order to achieve the highest score possible. This is where the part about Ikaruga comes into play the most, because the only way to really increase the score above normal levels is to destroy chains of the same size asteroids and build up the multiplier level as high as possible. It is this mode where the replay value is the greatest since the standard progressive mode has no plot at all.
The graphics and sound aren't exactly showstoppers, but they get the job done. The asteroids and other enemies are composed of soft color textures wrapped around a wire frame. While the wire frame is partially obscured while playing, at certain times it can become the only part of the asteroid on screen. I never noticed while playing, but it's extremely evident in some of the screenshots taken with ScreenGrab. The backgrounds and special effects are composed of vibrant colors that lend a brightness to the game, but occasionally they can become a hindrance. In other words, the player will sometimes find themselves blown up by a bullet hidden by the vivid explosion of another asteroid. It's no big deal, but special attention must be paid when in close quarters with certain types of enemies. As for sound, the music is composed of techno beats that, while not irritating, are not really memorable either. Sound effects are par for the course, with the expected sounds for explosions and shots fired. Occasionally, a robotic voice will chime in when certain events happen (the player is killed, completes a level, etc.) and it is this voice which begins to grate on the nerves after a short while, especially when it comes to the player's ship getting destroyed. An option to turn this off would have been greatly appreciated.
A snake boss-thing. The purists will be up in arms! The maze walls make movement a bit tricky. If it isn't my old arch-foe, the space jellyfish!
In the end, I can only really recommend this game to fans of arcade shooters or those looking for a reimagining of the classic Asteroids. It's not a bad game by any means, but it caters to those who enjoy the challenge associated with getting the highest score possible and to those who feel a bit nostalgic for games of old.
But don't take our word for it! Go on and grab the demo here!