Review: MO: Astray
The eShop is filled with pixel, retro looking, platformers. And because of this, when a great game in that same genre comes along, it can get lost in the mix. Hopefully, that doesn't happen to MO: Astray, because this game is one of the most interesting pixelated platformers, that I got a chance to play, in a long time.
The game starts off with a blue-green blob named MO that is awakened by a whisper that guides you through it's journey. The blue-green blob is your character, and that whisper that you hear? Well, that's the mystery. You start off in a lab, and in the beginning you have very little in the way of any sort of powers; you can move by going left and right with the left control stick, and jump, by using the right stick to aim and the left button to execute the jump. Admittedly, at first this was a bit awkward, especially playing in handheld mode on the Switch, but after a while, this comes second nature.
As you explore more of your surroundings, it suddenly becomes quite clear that something terrible has happened at this lab, although you still don't know exactly what happened. You'll come across zombie like creatures, that were once humans, but now are taken over by this biochemical agent. And the deeper you go into this lab, the more you learn about what happened through ghost-like flashback events. For instance, you might come across a dead body, and the flashback event occurs showing you what happened to this person. And some of these events are pretty gruesome. But you are shown just little pieces of what happened, and it's this mystery that you are putting together that keeps you going to find out more.
You explore the game using the abilities that you have, and as you progress, you start to learn new abilities, that will help you solve the puzzles in the level. The absolute beauty of this game is the design. When you learn a new ability, you are shown a very basic use of that new ability, but as you continue, you'll have to be creative with your ability to solve the puzzle. For instance, you'll learn the ability to possess the body of one of the zombies. You'll use this zombie to unlock a door by having the zombie access a nearby computer panel. Later, you'll see a crane, and you'll need to hit a button with your character, to lower the crane to pick up blocks, like a claw game. Both seem pretty simple. The next puzzle will have you figure out how to use the crane and possess the zombie to open the door so you can proceed. And when you see these puzzles, you just get it, because the designers did a great job showing you what you need to do with simpler puzzles.
And if the mystery and the puzzle aspect wasn't enough, the boss fights in the game are absolutely brilliant. Bigger than life and will require you to be creative with the skills you have mastered, the game does a great job at tying it all together. But wait, there's more! After you beat a level, you are shown bit of the story through a comic book. And it feels good to read though the story this way, it gives you a sense that you earned it.
Final Grade: A+
I don't give many A+ scores, but this game absolutely deserves it. Do not miss out on this puzzle platformer. It's definitely worth your time and money. If I had one complaint, it's that the controls are hard to play in handheld mode. I found it much easier to play with a controller, with the Switch connected to the TV. It's a small complaint. This game has so much going for it that I quickly forgave it.
Review code provided by Stride PR.