Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Astro Boy: Omega Factor

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            The successful 1960’s television series, Astro Boy, will once again be hitting Europe with a bang later this year, with a brand new feature length CGI motion-picture and an accompanying videogame adaptation from D3Publisher and High Voltage Software. With the publicity ball having already begun rolling for this latest incarnation of the Japanese animated series, it seems quite apt that we should look back in the direction one of the most recent videogame releases based upon the lovable robot boy.

            Released across Europe in 2005 alongside a PlayStation 2 release – developed by Sonic Team – for the Game Boy Advance, Astro Boy: Omega Factor was developed by Treasure at a time when their reputation for delivering innovative Platform games was Electronic Theatre Imagealmost unparalleled. Both titles were published by SEGA, and while the PlayStation 2 release found itself sitting well with the fanbase, this Game Boy Advance release received the critical acclaim, with many press outlets citing it as one of the best original Platform games available on the system. But four years later, with the march of technology striding forth without hesitation, can a Game Boy Advance title compete with the innovation offered with more recent releases?

            The basic premise of Astro Boy: Omega Factor is a mix-up of the Platform and Role-Playing Game (RPG) genre staples, blending the best of both into an entertaining and experimental cocktail. The game begins simply enough; an introduction to the storyline and a brief tutorial, followed typically gentle Platform jaunt. Before the end of this first level, the player will be introduced to the levelling-up mechanic, which is actually more prevalent in Astro Boy: Omega Factor than precedent would suggest. Meeting new characters will allow Astro Boy to improve his abilities or resistance, and finding the key weaknesses in your character’s skills is essential for progression.

            The Platform action, although beginning as a traditional left-to-right scrolling proposition, attacking any enemies standing in your way with one of three abilities or two Electronic Theatre Imagespecial moves – available through collecting coins dropped by enemies – the game soon mixes things up, asking the player to travel in multiple directions and even back on themselves. The Bosses often present a great challenge, asking the player to learn multiple attack patterns and vary their counters between Astro Boy’s array of attacks.

            The level design builds to immaculate crescendos, bringing together the beautiful art direction and a passion for Platforming rarely seen in third-party handheld titles. The environments have plenty of hidden bonuses – encouraging replays to aid a player’s levelling – and demonstrate some fantastic in-jokes and nods to previous Treasure titles. The animation and sound quality is some of the best produced from the Game Boy Advance’s aging hardware, and rivals even Nintendo’s own productions.

            The storyline is narrated by Astro Boy’s sister Electronic Theatre Imagebetween and occasionally within levels, and is rather disjointed in it’s handling of major events. Many who aren’t aware of the story prior to playing the game will find themselves missing a number of pivotal events, though the twist delivered towards the end is so delicately paced by contrast that it could be said to rival many Hollywood productions.

            Like many of Treasure’s releases, Astro Boy: Omega Factor is packed with charm and intrigue, and it’s ability to both challenge and enthral in equal measure result in an addictive gameplay experience. While the hardware the game is delivered upon may be considered dated in the modern industry, few titles on the Nintendo DS – the Game Boy Advance’s handheld successor – have shown such a level of dedication to striking the perfect balance between experimentation and entertainment.

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