ReviewsReview: Astro Aqua Kitty

Review: Astro Aqua Kitty

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Whenever I picture creatures used in mining situations, my mind jumps to dwarves, rabbits, badgers, or any other subterranean being. It doesn’t conjure up the image of space cats, blasting through rocks and killing enemies. Yet, this is the theme and plot for Astro Aqua Kitty. It’s a fun-filled game with multiple playing options and many foes. Strap yourself in, we’re about to go mining for some gems.

Developed and published by Tikipod Ltd, this is a retro shoot ’em up adventure title with a hint of RPG elements. You must control a pair of heroic mining cats as they delve deep into water-filled asteroids. The sequel to the well-received Astro Kitty UDX, Astro Aqua Kitty builds on these strong foundations. Its latest iteration uses all the well-designed mechanics but blends them into a larger and more open environment for you to explore.

With so many options available, Astro Aqua Kitty plays to your strengths.

I’m not always a fan of games that have plenty of gameplay options. The freedom to customise the game can overwhelm you and can put you off before your adventure begins. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case with Astro Aqua Kitty! Yes, it offers plenty of choices from the start, but none are overpowering, and they definitely won’t confuse you.

You open with the choice of eight cats. Four are pilots and four are engineers. Each of these kitties has unique skills and the challenge lies in picking the right pair for your gameplay style. Alongside this, you are to select your difficulty and whether you wish permadeath to be a feature. The four difficulty settings make this truly accessible.

One of the many missions that lie ahead.

All the kitties want to do is mine for gems.

Mining space gems should be an easy task, but when money and great treasures are involved, it rarely is. With marauding pirates to deal with and an array of monsters to defeat, this is no simple day at the office. Your cat crew must explore eight large labyrinthine stages that culminate with epic boss fights. The traditional approach reeks of classic arcade shoot ’em up titles and I loved that about it. With little in the way of a story, your focus is directed towards the many micro missions you undertake.

Each stage comprises a large number of quests. These involve a variety of tasks; wipe out hosts of enemies, collect crew members, and finding missing objects. Each job ensures you fully explore the surrounding areas and this gives you the chance to earn more gems and gain much-needed XP. As the game progresses the difficulty ramps up considerably. It is essential that you improve your ship and crew quickly. If you fail, you’ll get your arse handed to you.

Upgrades, weapons, and an array of skills.

I loved the level of detail the developers went into for their RPG elements. As XP is earned and gems are mined you are free to improve your pilots and your vessel. There is a plethora of firepower, each with its stats and pros and cons. These weapons have a grading system and the further you go, the more powerful they become. If you are impatient, use your gems and buy new weapons from the shop.

As your kitty pair level up, their ship can be improved and their skills activated. Each level you advance earns you one point that can be spent on either your pilot or engineer. You must decide which upgrade works best for your team and spend them accordingly. Gems can also be exchanged for permanent improvements to your vessel’s health, energy, or shield. I adored this approach as it enhanced the experience and made this more than just another shoot ’em up title.

Float carefully and destroy the monsters.

So many enemies and monstrous bosses.

This wouldn’t be a shoot ’em up titled if there wasn’t an overwhelming number of enemies. Wave after wave of water-loving beasts hide in the cavernous mazes you explore. They hug walls, explode, and continually shoot projectiles at you. It was manic, unpleasant, and blissful hell. This makes this genre great and only the player with the quickest reactions will be victorious.

You can’t have an army of vile creatures without screen-filling bosses, can you? Astro Aqua Kitty has its fill of pesky overlords that want to annihilate you. As the stages wear on, the challenge they pose increases exponentially. You must study their movement, find a weakness, and exploit it.

Astro Aqua Kitty looks great.

So many modern retro-inspired shooters stick with pixelated looks, wearing it as a badge of honour. Astro Aqua Kitty is different. Its up to date style, crisp lines, and vivid colours make it a pleasure to look at. Its large maze-like stages are wonderful to explore, but the vast emptiness takes away from the claustrophobic nature of the original and perhaps dilutes the gameplay. For all its great imagery it suffers from frame rate drops and slowdowns. This only occurred when bosses were defeated! Sadly, it was noticeable as you stuttered to a glorious conclusion.

The audio was great as it added a dynamic quality. The soundtrack was enjoyable to listen to, well-composed, and had plenty of variety. I loved its futuristic and electronic approach and this matched the space theme. The sound effects were as expected but were delivered to a high standard. The whizzing of laser beams and the crunching demise of each enemy was brilliant to listen to.

Pick your crew and prepare to mine.

Shooting enemies and piloting a ship is not a problem for this pro crew.

This is one shoot ’em up that is easy to play. Limited button mapping enables you to master this in minutes. A short tutorial helps with the fundamentals and a gentle learning curve allows you to practice without pressure. The controls are responsive and the layout uses a well thought out design.

With many options to explore and combinations of weapons to use, each playthrough will differ. There is a strong desire to return and try each style and this increases both its replay value and longevity. The choice of difficulties will push the most hardcore of gamers and a strategic mindset is required at the later stages. A moderate achievement list will test completionists, but this doesn’t add much to the overall experience.

Astro Aqua Kitty is a worthy addition to your library.

From its humble origins, this series has grown to an expansive space adventure. This change in direction removes some layers of intimacy and dilutes the gameplay slightly. I enjoyed what was presented, but occasionally I felt lost in the underwater levels. It is great to play and fans of the genre will love it. I recommend you buy a copy here! Choose your team, jump in your ship, and mine some gems. Just try to avoid the monsters that lurk in the dark.

SUMMARY

Astro Aqua Kitty is a great retro shoot 'em up with a modern aesthetic. Brilliant gameplay, lots of weapons and massive levels to explore. A nice addition to the series even if the new approach dilutes the gameplay a little.

+ Excellent modern graphics.
+ Futuristic electronic soundtrack.
+ Gameplay options add longevity.
+ Loads of weapons, skills, and upgrades to buy.
+ Easy to play.
- The change in direction has diluted the gameplay.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS Vita and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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