Weekly Time Waster: Cat Astro Phi
Looks like a Game Boy; plays like a Game Boy.
Cat Astro Phi is exactly what it appears to be: a throwback to simple Game Boy adventure games. There's no tongue-in-cheek irony, no nodding winks, and no half-assed design. With graphics by Ilija Melentijević and music by Rich Vreeland / Disasterpeace, the game nails the 4-tone grayscale screen and melodically chirping handheld glory that was the Game Boy.
The gameplay itself is comfortable, progressing with that same child-friendly slowness that made playing these types of games relaxing and "casual" to begin with -- ready to be turned off whenever the bus came to your stop or the plane was about to land. You switch back in forth between uneasily piloting a spaceship through an asteroid storm, inevitably crashlanding on a nearby planet, and having to recover both new battery cells and your runaway cat before you can take off again. The puzzles of the game are fairly simple, but exploring the rooms of the planet is fun and there's a nice breadth to your interactivity with the environment, moving blocks into acid to create walkable paths and blowing up the scenery entirely with bombs to clear your way. There's not a whole lot to it beyond that, but it was a real treat to play a well-crafted, straight-up game after digging through the often hit-or-miss "art game" category for so long.
After finishing the too-short game (there's only three planets and a final boss), we were so enamored with the whole package that we routed around until we found another collaboration or two between the same graphic artist and game designer. Droplet is a whole different kind of game, and not as fully satisfying, but the charm is still there, and it tided us over until it was time to once again get back to work.
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