The Nintendo Switch has no shortage of quirky platformer-puzzle games, and MO: Astray is the latest addition. The central conceit of this particular game is that you are a slime trying to escape from a run-down research facility. While running you’ll learn the backstory of what happened at the lab, and what spawned all the horrors you now face. As with most modern platformer-puzzlers you have very little in the way of direct combat abilities and must rely on wits to escape.
Death and failure are constants in MO: Astray, with fatal death traps and hungry zombies everywhere. The game is designed to be challenging and unforgiving but dulls the frustration with frequent checkpoints. Even so, some puzzles you will become intimately familiar with as you do the steps over and over again. A way to determine if a game in this genre is good or not is if the continuous failures push you to quit, or to make you take “just one more try”. For me, MO: Astray fell firmly in the latter category, as I always felt successfully clearing a puzzle was just one try away — even when it (frequently) wasn’t. Boss battles were a different story as I often found them frustrating, and puzzling out their mechanics was infinitely more difficult because of the time constraints.
The controls in MO: Astray are not difficult to grasp, and do not evolve much during the course of the game. You’ll get a handful of new abilities as the game moves forward, but not as many as you’d expect for a game of this length. Instead of adding many new abilities, you are tasked with finding novel ways of using the skills you already have. Experimentation is a big part of this game. I encountered several puzzles that seemed difficult or impossible until something would click and it would make sense.
As is fairly typical of games in this genre, MO: Astray uses a pixelated look like a throwback to the old days of gaming. The palette is heavy in greens and blues, which honestly looks good in this style. While I generally don’t find these retro-styled games “pretty” by any conventional sense, MO: Astray was one of the more visually pleasing ones. It also serves to contrast with the brutal, and often bloody, violence that happens both in the background and game itself. MO: Astray does not pull any punches with the gore, despite its retro aesthetic.
MO: Astray Review Final Thoughts:
Fans of the platformer-puzzle genre will want to check out MO: Astray. The story has just enough hooks in it to draw you in, and the gameplay is refined. At around eight hours or so there’s plenty to dig into here, and the variety of puzzles will keep you thinking. The gore may be off-putting to some, although it’s not as disturbing as something like Limbo. At $14.99 this is a solid bargain in this genre, and well worth trying.