There are only so many ways you can design a platformer, and eventually it doesn’t hurt to rethink the core gameplay concept. This is something Dandara did pretty well, and I think MO: Astray went in the same direction. Basically it’s a platformer in which you don’t walk side to side but rather jump around from wall to wall. Does it end up working out? Let’s see
First off, I wanna address the elephant in the room: the title. Cards on the table, I’m gonna try and copy-past the game’s title a lot because it’s annoying to type out. But yeah, it’s not what I would consider a catchy or creative title. It refers to a little blob thing called MO, who happens to be lost (or astray, I guess). Throughout the game you guide MO through the ruins of a scientific facility filled with all sorts of perils. I feel like Astray would have been a better title (way more indie-ish actually)
While the guys in charge of the game’ title could have put in a bit more legwork, MO: Astray’s visual design is supreme. Its pixel art is rich and detailed, and the color palette really gives you the sense that you’re in a decrepit place that was once immaculate. Animations are also polished and professional, and I definitely feel like the art department put in overtime. I don’t even really know if I can call its style pixel art. Whatever it is, it has a very dark aesthetic that helps ratchet up the tension.
Let’s get back to that unconventional gameplay I talked about earlier. The titular MO moves by hopping around in Angry Birds-esque arcs. Thus, it’s not a platformer so much as a swipe and jumper. This can be frustrating at times, but you get the hang of it eventually. You start off jumping across surfaces and end up jumping onto weird zombie things. You also get a double jump later, and you can kind of slide down surfaces. A big part of MO: Astray is obviously getting the hang of this locomotion and figuring out how it works. I would highly recommend paying attention during the little tutorial bits they do where they introduce a new skill, because if you kind of space out during one of them you’ll end up pretty lost.
I liked the pacing of MO: Astray but felt like the story dragged at times. It’s not a super original narrative overall, but it gets the job done, I feel. What I found jarring at times was the level of gore and general unpleasantness. This isn’t a game for the faint of heart, mind you. Your character (or the dude your character is controlling Half-Life headcrab style) will meet a gruesome death in various unpleasant ways. There are definitely bits that become masocore-y, so brace yourself for constant failure.
The game’s final chapters were frankly too hard. I think I liked it at first but it overdid the difficulty loop towards the end. I will say that the game’s ending had a nice payoff, so that was a cool thing to experience after a ton of trial and error. I guess I would recommend pacing yourself and playing the final part in more than one sitting.
On the whole, MO: Astray is a solid Switch purchase, and I definitely recommend it.