Home > Action, Xbox Indie > Asteroids Do Concern Me [REVIEW]

Asteroids Do Concern Me [REVIEW]

Asteroids Do Concern Me: released December 7th, 2010
Developer: Evil Robot Logic
Platforms: Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace

Simplicity in gaming is an interesting topic. This last generation of consoles in particular has seen the term transformed a bit, now being associated with the “casualization” of the industry. When a developer wants to take a long established franchise that is cherished by many a veteran game enthusiast and alter it to appeal to a more casual audience, what do they do? They simplify things. Unfortunately this has led to the word “simple” now being synonymous with “casual” or, in many cases, “bad.” Asteroids Do Concern Me is without a doubt, the very definition of simple, but even more than that, it’s a fantastic example of how simplicity doesn’t always translate to poor game design, despite the unfortunate stigma that comes along with it.

The core gameplay in Asteroids Do Concern Me isn’t terribly unique, in that it is very clearly derivative of many flash games that you can find online for free. The goal in Asteroids Do Concern Me is to navigate your ship through a field of asteroids, trying to travel the furthest distance possible. If you’ve ever played Robot Unicorn Attack, then you’re already familiar with the idea. So then what makes this game worth your time? Hilarious writing, outstanding presentation, and just enough nuance in the gameplay to keep things interesting.

The controls in Asteroids Do Concern Me consist of a single button. With this button, you control your ship’s vertical thrust. Your ship will constantly be propelled down a river of asteroids and it’s your job to steer the ship clear of those asteroids for as long as you can. The catch is that you’ll constantly be falling down towards the wall of asteroids at the bottom of the screen, so you’ll need to hit the thrusters to remain elevated, but make sure you don’t go too high, otherwise you’ll end up just splattering yourself all over the ceiling. Not to mention you’ll need juke back and forth to dodge all of the incoming asteroids that clutter up the midrange of the levels as well. You see, the one button control is terrificly simplistic, but you’ll need a pretty refined level of control to avoid destruction. You need to know when to let the ship dive, when to hold the thrust, when to feather it, etc. You’re always on the precipice of death, and split-second reflexes are key, especially since your ship will gradually speed up as you travel further in to the asteroids. It makes for a pretty tense flight.

There are two main modes of play, which are the story mode, and the classic mode. The story itself isn’t particularly memorable (all I actually remember was that you found some evil mad-god computer thing, and then you flew past some obstacles, and that killed it. Somehow.), but what is memorable is the excellent writing. In story mode you’ll do the usual asteroid dodging thing, though it’s a bit easier since you’ll have lives, meaning that whenever you hit an asteroid, instead of crashing and burning, it’ll just eat up a life and you’ll continue dodging asteroids. What sets this mode apart from classic is that throughout the whole thing, you’ve got a story being narrated to you. Literally the entire time you’re playing, there’s a narrator speaking about your journey, and sometimes it’ll switch over to the evil mad-god computer and you’ll get to hear some dialogue from him. It’s all very comical and I actually got a sortof Monty Python vibe from it. The writing itself is quite amusing, but the delivery is what really drives it home. It was very entertaining.

Then there’s classic mode, which is actually my preferred style of asteroid dodging. Classic mode is a lot more arcade-like than it’s story mode counterpart. The goal of classic is simply to see how far you can travel through the asteroid field. Once you crash in to a million fiery pieces, you will then reload and try again, this time hopefully traveling even further! And that’s it. That’s the game. See how far you can make it, then try to beat your high score. And ya know what? It’s awesome. Navigating the asteroids is actually a lot more challenging than you might think, and it becomes incredibly addicting almost immediately. There’s a certain feeling of satisfaction in the way your ship handles that just makes it a really enjoyable experience, and it’s a lot of fun going back and trying to make it further and further through the asteroid field.

Another great feature of classic mode? There are four different “versions” of it. They all technically play the same, but different modes will offer different skins, different sounds, and even slightly different asteroid “behaviors,” such as moving up and down. Notebook mode changes the background to look like notebook paper and the ships and asteroids take on a black and white hand-drawn appearance, with the sound effects being replaced with crumpling paper sounds. Then double-rainbow mode makes everything all happy with a great big sunshine in the background, clouds instead of asteroids, and a happier, more upbeat background track. Oh, and your exhaust is replaced with rainbow colored stars and shapes. It’s amazing. My favorite mode would have to be retro mode though, which reverts the music to an 8bit chiptune mode and switches the sound effects so that whenever you die, it makes the Megaman death sound. Super amazing.

Sadly, there’s no awesomely narrated stories to be had in the classic mode, but in it’s place you do get these wonderful little blurbs that pop up each time you meet your untimely demise. It doesn’t have the comical voice-acting, but there’s some pretty hilarious stuff in there. Here are a few examples of messages you may receive upon slamming in to the side of an asteroid:

“Can you smell what the rock is cookin? (Hint: it’s you)”

“I’ve been watching you and that asteroid a long time. I always knew you’d end up together.”

“They put your tombstone on the asteroid. It reads: Here lies a courageous pilot. Well… here… and over there… and some more over there… kind of all over the place actually…”

Have I mentioned that I love the writing in this game, because I really love the writing in this game. Take in to account the eye pleasing visuals and entertaining voice acting, and it all adds up to having some pretty impressive production values. There was some real heart that went in to making this game look and sound fantastic, and the effort really paid off because the visuals, writing, and sound were all instrumental in making the experience as fun and positive as it was.

At the end of the day, Asteroids Do Concern Me isn’t a revolutionary gaming experience, but that’s okay. It wasn’t trying to be. It’s an extremely simple game that does a lot with a little. The premise of the game is so simple, it’s amazing how Evil Robot Logic have managed to take this one note design and squeeze it for everything it’s worth. The comical story mode, the interesting alternate classic modes, and the hilarious death messages are all fantastic touches that really took this game the extra mile and made it something that I will remember fondly. It may be an unabashedly simple game, but that didn’t get in the way of me having hours and hours of fun playing it, and it shouldn’t for you either.

Asteroids Do Concern Me can be purchased for one measly dollar on the Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace. Check it out!

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