I recently dug out my old Gameboy Advance and have been playing on some of the titles that I missed out on first time around. Since Astro Boy Omega Factor had recently featured as a classic title in Retro Gamer magazine, I decided that was a good a place to start as any.
The game is based on the popular cartoon character Astro Boy (personally, I'd never heard of him, but then that's probably because I'm old). Omega Factor sees the robotic boy flying into action to save the world from a dastardly plot to make all robots subservient to humans. This amounts to a series of different stages where Astro Boy must fly, shoot and negotiate platforms, overcoming a variety of enemies and bosses out to stop him.
There are a number of things that really set Astro Boy apart from other, more generic platform/shooter hybrids. Chief amongst these is the presentation, and particularly the story which flows throughout the game. Every level has a cut-scene before and after it (and sometimes mid-way through as well) which charts the story. Never mind that the story is a bit bonkers and doesn't make a whole heap of sense - it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. Rather than simply doing a level because that's the one you are up to, you feel as though you are doing it for a very specific reason, explained to you through the cut-scenes and its accompanying dialogue. It also gives you a sense of progression and achievement as you move through the game. This is not just a generic shooter, it's one which makes good use of its licence and immerses you in Astro Boy's oddball world.
True, occasionally the cut-scenes occur a little too frequently and it sometimes feels as though for every 5-6 minutes of gameplay, there is 2-3 minutes of dialogue to read through. However, the cut-scenes are quite endearing and without them, it's unlikely the game would be anywhere near as entertaining (and you can always skip them if you really get bored).
Graphics, too, are excellent. Each level has a very different setting and hence a very different feel. Again, these graphical differences add to the sense of progression as the look and feel of the game changes as you move through the plot. Although relatively simplistic by today's standards graphics are clear, crisp and well-defined and have a pleasing cartoon like quality that captures the feeling of a cartoon. There is a huge variety in the different sprites used for the enemies. Some of these are fairly generic "evil agent" man-shaped enemies, others are far more imaginative; all are excellent. I particularly liked the frequent use of bosses which offer a bit more of a challenge
Sound is also surprisingly good, with creators Treasure squeezing some excellent tunes and effects out of Nintendo's little grey box. The tunes are catchy without being annoying, whilst the sound effects are suitable and very atmospheric. Sound is sometimes an area which can let games down badly, but there's no problem here.
It's the superb level design which is the real icing on the cake, though. They are generally short (typically taking less than 5 minutes to complete) and so are ideal for more casual pick-up-and-play gaming sessions. They are also varied and fun. Some are simple straightforward shooting levels, other are platform based, whilst still others see you having to defeat a series of enemies before you can move on. This mix of styles means that the game never becomes dull as no two consecutive levels are the same. Throw in the end of level bosses, and plenty of variety to hold your attention.
True, it's not the most difficult game in the world, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The game is such a joy to play that you will want to get to the end of it, and for once, even the most average of gamers stands a chance of doing just that. It's also a lot of fun, so even when you've completed it its replay value is high and it's a game you will return to every so often.
Controls initially seem a little daunting. Basic directional controls are accessed via the D-Pad, whilst the two buttons control other features like Jump. The shoulder buttons are used to access more advanced weapons and (this is where it gets more complicated) various combinations of all these buttons control other moves (such as the handy dash attack). Unlike many games, all these moves are available to you from the start and whilst there is a brief tutorial level, you do initially feel as though you have to learn a lot of controls at once. Initial fears quickly subside as the controls prove to be surprisingly intuitive and after a few short minutes of experimentation, you will soon have the hang of them.
Best of all, getting hold of this game is not going to bankrupt you. I bought a boxed copy in excellent condition for just over £5. For the number of hours' entertainment you will get out of this Omega Factor that is excellent value for money. I might not know a lot about the Astro Boy character or be able to comment on how faithful a representation this is, but I know a good game when I see one.
© Copyright SWSt 2011
Invisible enemies are revealed with his x-ray vision, his Arm Canon discharges explosive firepower, his hearing is unparalleled, and his strength is no less than 100,000 horsepower. With his superior, electronic brain, he decodes robotic languages and secret codes. Help Astro uncover his full potential through 10 non-linear, interactive areas, including a volcano, outer space, underground, and the city.