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Astral Traveler Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . As a game about dodging obstacles and avoiding bottomless pits, Astral Traveler is fine. It's a little repetitive and the difficulty is aggressively unfair towards the end, but I had a good time and like the five dollar asking price. What I hope will happen is for the developers to suddenly realize what they have and create a proper racing game out of this so-so action game. There's a must-own game lurking in Astral Traveler that is just waiting to be created. Rating: 64%
Astral Traveler
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  • B-
Astral Traveler is a good example of a developer not realizing what they have. As a small, budget-priced action game all about dodging obstacles and surviving to the next stage, it's merely fine. It's neither going to wow you with its creativity nor make you feel like you got ripped-off. It's a solid game and that's about it. But if Canadian developer Dragon Slumber were to tweak it just a little bit and turn it into a proper racing game, then there's a good chance it would have been one of my favorite games of the year. Sometimes you have to review the game you're playing, not the game you wish you were playing.

Astral Traveler is not an easy game to nail down. It toys with being an action game, endless runner, shooter and, yes, even a racing game, but it never fully embraces any of those genres. It basically mashes everything together to create a fast-paced obstacle course where you'll occasionally shoot at enemies and have to jump over bottomless pits. The goal is simple: Make it to the end of the course without dying. But you better be quick about it, because the clock is always ticking and the leaderboard is a competitive warzone.


The single-player campaign is split up into 47 separate courses spread across five unique nebulas. The stages start out short and simple, usually taking only a few seconds to complete. But this is there to lull you into a false sense of confidence, because there's no question that this game ramps up the difficulty in a hurry. Suddenly the stages take a lot longer than a few seconds and you'll need to memorize when weave left, right and jump. And every time you think it can't get any harder, they find a new way to bump up the speed and overwhelm you with obstacles. And don't forget, you're also shooting at enemies and trying to place on the leaderboard. Astral Traveler is the very definition of stressful.

The 47 stages are split into a couple different types of courses. For the most part, you'll be racing over what resembles a half pipe. Sometimes there will be holes in the track and you'll have to jump to other parts of the level, but it's usually flat and easy to race. But then things get shaken up when you race over what looks like a long, winding beanstalk. You cling to the side as you circle it in 360 degrees, all while avoiding all of the obstacles thrown in your path. These are cool stages that remind me of what Nintendo was doing with their F-Zero series back in the day.

For as cut and dry as most of the design is, I do like few small attempts that show that the developers were taking the racing elements into mind. For example, there are these orbs scattered throughout the levels that can be shot for health items. But if you don't shoot them and instead press the phase button, you'll be able to zip through them for a nice speed boost. Mastering this technique is how you'll ultimately secure your spot at the top of the leaderboard.

Astral Traveler (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Beyond phasing through orbs, there really isn't all that much to the gameplay. You can jump, shoot and dodge left and right. That's pretty much it. While that's enough to get the job done, it would have been nice for more variety. The same can be said about the obstacles. Sure, each nebula introduces something new, but there's nothing here you haven't seen before in countless other games.

Like I said at the top, Astral Traveler has everything it takes to be a killer racing game. It has cool level designs, cars with weapons, an outer space motif and fast pace that is normally reserved for WipEout and F-Zero. But without other drivers on the track, this speedy indie game never felt like a proper racer. By focusing on making it all about the obstacle course, the developers have severely limited Astral Traveler's true potential. It's so disappointing.

As a game about dodging obstacles and avoiding bottomless pits, Astral Traveler is fine. It's a little repetitive and the difficulty is aggressively unfair towards the end, but I had a good time and like the five dollar asking price. What I hope will happen is for the developers to suddenly realize what they have and create a proper racing game out of this so-so action game. There's a must-own game lurking in Astral Traveler that is just waiting to be created.
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