REVIEW: Rasternauts

It’s comforting to know that the whole reason we have games like Rasternauts (80 MSP) is entirely thanks to engineers and brains in labs everywhere still refusing to listen to and abide by the most basic of scientific caveats; you do not meddle with things you do not understand. Yet here we are, throwing atoms at each other in giant underground tunnels in Switzerland, and I can’t sleep.

Thankfully, Rasternauts’ folly is less damaging to my sanity, being a fictional game and all. Scientists are still at the center of it, though, tearing a hole in our their universe straight through to a world of neon vectors and baddies. Naturally, this meeting between universes is not met with friendly handshakes and information-sharing. Your pixel friends are abducted by these vectors, and you’ll need to run & gun through 30+ levels to rescue them and set things back to a pixel-perfect present.

You can select from four characters, each with their own armament that plays slightly different depending on your style. This seems to put the game squarely in the shooter category (comparisons to Contra / Metal Slug have been made), though there’s more than a fair share of platforming going on here. Traversal mixed with some stop & pop is the general idea, as each stage has a specific number of separated scientists to save, and doesn’t end until you do so. Boss fights and a good amount of variety in the level design keep things moving.

Player Health is governed by crystals, dropped by enemies and found within the environment. These pull double-duty, upgrading your weapon (there are additional powerups to be found as well) and keeping you alive, a la Sonic the Hedgehog. When you’re hit by the vectors or by incoming fire, your ‘crystal bankroll’ is scattered, leaving you a few seconds to gather up as many as possible. So long as you have at least one in your possession, you’re okay. Without, well, you know.

Rasternauts - Screen

And much like the Sonic games, threats abound in Rasternauts. While you can fire in all directions, or hold position and fire, even on ladders / fencing, it’s not nearly as perfect or convenient when you’re surrounded by enemies. I was tossed to my doom plenty of times by bullets coming off-screen and hitting me just right. In fact, the game borders on ‘Mega Man levels’ of difficulty, less about enjoyment and more just sheer determination to see it through, avoiding the constant hazards and respawning (…ugh / sigh) enemies.

If you’re in the mood for old school design (and the requisite frustration involved), then Rasternauts is your game. If you were expecting something a little more forgiving, don’t. That doesn’t cancel out some of the fun and humor Rasternauts generates, but it does give it more of a punishformer vibe than the visuals indicate. Proceed with caution.

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10 thoughts on “REVIEW: Rasternauts”

  1. I honestly prefer dying every 30 seconds than every 10 minutes, because the faster I die, the slower I will heal, so I can feel more pain in my masochist self. That’s why I prefer shorter stages like Super Meat Boy, not much into Megaman (now you are 100% sure there’s something wrong with me). Unless they are Metroidvania like La-Mulana (a whole year and still have not beat it, and i will NOT USE an online FAQ, I WILL DO IT!!)

    Good keep reviewing average games and will keep following your advice, now I can finally buy that JR Bacon. The bad things is I will get out of shape, and will feel bad about myself while playing The Fitness Scrolls V. I mean have you seen a Bethesda character with more than 7% body fat? The chief of that company must be a narcissist. What a bunch of jerks!!!

    And I just discover I suck at getting free games.

    1. I’d say you’re in luck with Rasternauts then, as ‘masochistic’ could aptly describe some of the levels / situations. You have to love old school games, but I think I’d pick Super Meat Boy over Mega Man nowadays.

      Laughing at that Fitness Scrolls comment… 🙂 You make a point, though between the Elder Scrolls and the Fallout series, it’s not like those characters readily have access to Jr. Bacon cheeseburgers. No Wendy’s in the Wasteland.

    2. And I always thought this extra weight would help me live longer in case of a disaster situation since I could go without food for longer than most!

  2. If you laugh in the face of challenge and don’t mind rescuing the scientists that got you into this mess, first person to respond to this comment wins themselves a copy of the game, courtesy of Mostly Fictional Games.

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