Although I’ve owned a Gameboy Advance since around 2003, it’s been one of my more neglected consoles and I’ve never had that many games for it. Recently, I’ve been reacquainting myself with it and came across Astro Boy Omega Factor.
Based on the popular cartoon character Astro Boy (although I confess I’d never heard of it), Astro Boy must save the world from a dastardly plot to make all robots subservient to humans. In other words, you must fly, shoot and negotiate obstacles, overcoming a variety of enemies and bosses.
What sets Astro Boy apart is the presentation and the focus on narrative: every level has a cut-scene before and after it (and sometimes mid-way through) which develops the story. Never mind that it’s all a bit bonkers– it really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The focus on story makes you feel like you are doing things for a reason; it also gives a sense of progression as you get deeper into the game. True, the cut-scenes sometimes feel a little too frequent – for every 5-6 minutes of gameplay, there is 2-3 minutes of dialogue to read, but these can be skipped if you get bored.
Each level has a very different graphical setting and look and feel which also add to the sense of progression. Although relatively simplistic by today’s standards, graphics have a pleasing cartoon like quality that captures the games source. I’ve no idea how well these tie in with the original cartoon, but they suit the game well.
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 very atmospheric.
It’s the superb level design which is the real icing on the cake, though. Levels are generally short (typically taking 5 minutes or less) and are ideal for more casual pick-up-and-play gaming sessions. They are also varied and fun. Some are straightforward shooting levels, other incorporate platform elements and and some see you having to defeat a series of enemies or a big boss before you can move on. This mix of styles means that the game never becomes dull.
True, it’s not the most difficult game in the world, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since for once, even the most average of gamers stands a chance of getting to the end without cheating. Even when you’ve completed it, Omega Factor’s replay value is high and it’s a game you will still want to play for the fun of it.
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 it offers, that is excellent value for money. I might not know a lot about Astro Boy character, but I know a good game when I see one.