Overall Score 76%
Chronic Logic are veterans of the indie scene. The fact that they have been around since 2002 is an achievement in an environment where most developers seem to fade in and out very quickly. Even more impressive is the fact that Chronic Logic have been very productive over this entire span of time and not only have produced some really good quality gaming for us (Gish, Pontifex, Kingdom Elemental Tactics and Zatikon just to name a few), but these games have been extremely diverse in terms of appeal over a wide variety of genre. It's an amazing back catalogue that is rivalled by very few developers that I can recall.
Roll on 2010 and Astrodriller 3020: a casual action puzzler. It's not a difficult game to learn at all. It's instant action that doesn't need a large investment of time nor brain power. The classic puzzle elements are overshadowed by an emphasis on multi-tasking and and honing reaction time, and it is well suited for all ages and skill levels.
Your trusty astro driller jet-packs around under large entities at the top of the screen, chipping away to break off chunks off of them. When this happens, the chunks then mysteriously and spontaneously follow the laws of gravity (wherever that might be coming from) and fall towards the bottom of the screen. Placed at strategic places all over the screen are vacuum tubes that the player is tasked with guiding the asteroids into. To aid the player in this job, laser beams are able to be placed freely anywhere on the screen. Do this by click and holding the left mouse button and dragging out a beam, then releasing the button. Asteroids will bump into and bounce off of these laser beams much the same way as a pinball reacts to bumpers. Just guide the asteroids home, that's all there is to it.
Too easy? Yeah, I thought you might say that, and apparently Chronic Logic thought the same thing. So they made it a bit tougher for you. See, asteroids come in different colours, and so do the vacuum tubes. You see where this is going don't you? If you want points (and let's face it, what kind of gamer doesn't want points?) then you're going to have to match the colours up. Asteroids are valuable, but refined down to precious gems, they are worth a lot more. Use your lasers to grind the asteroids before they get sucked into the tubes. You can either sandwich them between two lasers or bump them into the handily placed (and highly abrasive) grey rocks to wear layers off them. There are also little sparkly stars that you can run the asteroids over for bonus points. On lots of levels there are multiple paths for the asteroids to travel along, but the most difficult one will have lots of “sparkly star” rewards along it, and a small high scoring vacuum tube at the end of it. Amass enough points to win a platinum, gold, silver or bronze award on a level and you will unlock the next. You'd better get used to doing that too, because there are 90 levels to get through.
There are some other features that try to keep things interesting, like the ability to to put a speed boost on a chunk by left clicking directly on it. Not recommended for beginners, this technique will see novice miners lose more chunks than they collect, but in the hands of an experienced operator precious seconds can be saved, and more mining can be accomplished within the 2 minute period that play is allowed. Chaining collection applies a score bonus which is reset if a chunk is lost off the bottom of the play-field. Sometimes when the miner breaks off a chunk, it's colour is unknown and the player will need to click on it to identify it before sending it on its way.
Conceptually, the game is very original, and it plays well. You can play it one-handed (that's part of my own personal definition of a true casual game, by the way) and progress is automatically saved whenever you quit. Cleared levels can be replayed at any time. There's a shop that can be visited between levels where power ups can be purchased that augment the number and strength of the player's lasers, for example. The game supports multi-user profiles and has no selectable difficulty levels. The levels do tend to become more challenging as the game advances, yet some easier levels are often interspersed with the more difficult ones, probably with the aim of keeping the player motivated and the game fun. I'm stuck at about level 50(ish) after investing a solid 3 hours into the game, so it's probably fair to say that it will take at least twice that long to clear them all, and that's assuming that the player is blasting through them rather quickly.
Puzzle games (especially those that rely on shapes and colour) can be rendered almost unplayable by bad graphics, and although those in Astrodriller 3020 are not stellar, they are clear and stylised; doing what they need to do to allow the player to concentrate on the task at hand. A wide variety of display resolutions are supported and the game can be played windowed or in a fullscreen mode. Music is futuristic and space-themed, and sound effects are present for all significant events. Especially noteworthy is a sergeant-major type voice-over that will have no hesitation in letting you know when things aren't going especially to plan (maggot!). Get a few combo points and he might even grace you with with “Welcome to mediocrity-ville – population YOU!”. For him to be at all impressed, you'll need a gold or higher award in a level. Even then, his temperance is usually short lived.
Despite being well made and fun to play, it does lack any real depth, both in terms of longevity and (more importantly I think) any real gameplay choices to the player. The player just needs to do what they need to do, move on to the next level and repeat. If you, like me, are not a fan of casual games then be warned that Astrodriller is very much a “couple of minutes here and there” type of game. It's not particularly engaging or provoking, but that's not to say that those are definite criteria for a game to be good. It's just that for me, it's lacking somewhat in appeal. So, good? Yes, without a doubt. Still playing in a week's time? Hmm...don't think so.
Keywords: astrodriller 3020 review, chronic logic llc reviews, chronic logic llc games, astrodriller 3020 scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.