Review – MO: Astray (Switch)

I first learned about Rayark Games’ existence back in 2017, during the Switch’s first months in the market when the system had barely anything worth playing. From out of nowhere, a then-unknown Taiwanese company decided to release the first hack and slash game for the system, Implosion, which is still one of my favorite indie titles for it. A few years later, I ended up playing Rayark’s first foray into VR gaming, Deemo Reborn, and loved its innovative control scheme and downright gorgeous soundtrack. It’s safe to say that they’ve managed to win my immediate curiosity with any new release. With their brand new Switch game, MO: Astray, I can also say that they have managed to win my absolute trust, as this is yet another delightful surprise from the small studio.

MO: Astray

Just look at it. It’s so friggin’ cute!

In MO: Astray, you control a small blob of goo that looks like a carbon copy of one of the cutest Pok√©mon in existence, Goomy. You are possibly the result of an experiment gone wrong and you are born with the sole objective of running away from a shady space station filled to the brim with zombies and other monsters. It’s amazing how this game manages to be cute and downright horrifying at the same time. It has the most adorable of protagonists in existence, yet it’s set in a gory space station filled with blood, guts, and corpses. Almost to the point that it would make the monster from Carrion feel jealous.

MO: Astray

And then one of those shows up, and the game becomes the literal opposite of cute.

Despite the premise, this is not yet another indie metroidvania. This is actually a linear puzzle platformer that actually borrows more from Oddworld than it does from Metroid. Your blob of goo is small and frail, having to jump from wall to wall in order to properly move, but it can eventually manage to “possess” the head of undead scientists and space station staff members in order to make them open switches and solve lots of different puzzles. You can eventually control a clone blob as well, resulting in even more complex puzzles for you to solve. The game also features a few boss battles, as well as some sudden difficulty spikes that show up from out of nowhere only to make your life miserable.

MO: Astray‘s gameplay is actually pretty fantastic, featuring a very simple yet intuitive control scheme, but the real star of the show is its setting. Although abandoned space stations filled with zombies and experiments gone wrong aren’t exactly the most innovative of settings (looking at you, Dead Space), MO: Astray managed to captivate me with how it presented its story. Your blob can actually read the memories of every single character it possesses, be it man or monster. With that, you’ll be able to gather the pieces of a much bigger jigsaw, learning about what happened with the space station, its staff’s suffering, the reasons behind these experiments, and who’s responsible for this accident. Somehow, this pixelated adventure with no voice acting grabbed my attention like few games in recent memory.

MO: Astray

MO: Astray features some boss battles… but they’re not exactly fun.

It looks great, with some of the best pixel art out there, and has some great animations. The way the zombies move is equally gross and appealing to the eyes, as they move in a really creepy but well-animated manner. The sound department is also pretty decent, as it follows the idea of quality over quantity. The soundtrack is sparse, but effective. It works in an abandoned station setting like this one. Whenever there’s music, it’s usually subtle and layered, without ever being blasted in your face, with the exception of boss battles. The same can be said about sound effects. The game isn’t filled with them, but they’re always used in the right situation. The zombie voice effects, for instance, are absolutely disgusting, just like they should be.

MO: Astray

That little blob of goo is adorable even when it’s possessing a rotting corpse.

This is the third time in a row that Rayark Games releases a game with little to no fanfare or prior promotion, and that game ends up being a surprising, well-crafted gem. MO: Astray is a fantastic little indie platformer that manages to be really engaging and creepy with its storytelling, while also managing to entertain with a very unique and intuitive control scheme. It’s equal parts cute and horrifying. If it wasn’t for some really annoying difficulty spikes that show up from out of nowhere, this would have been an absolute must-have. As it stands, I still have to recommend MO: Astray to any Switch fan looking for a unique platforming fix.

 

Graphics: 9.0

MO: Astray is comprised of the finest quality pixel art out there, as well as some really great animations. It manages to be quite cute and incredibly disturbing at the same time.

Gameplay: 9.0

A simple but really inventive control scheme and physics engine. Jumping around like a cutesy ball of goo, while also being able to possess zombies, is equally engaging, innovative, and intuitive.

Sound: 8.0

The soundtrack is pretty subtle, but it fits perfectly with the game’s “abandoned spaceship” setting. The sound effects also get the job done. There is no voice acting, but in no way that annoyed me.

Fun Factor: 8.5

MO: Astray isn’t just a very good puzzle platformer. Its story and setting are also deeply captivating. This game would have been almost perfect if it wasn’t for some really annoying difficulty spikes that show up from out of nowhere.

Final Verdict: 8.5

MO: Astray is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of MO: Astray was provided by the publisher.