August 15, 2023
When you think about a space voyage, you likely imagine the finest astronauts who know what they are doing. Everyone is unified, disciplined, and properly trained in their craft. But when you travel with a bunch of odd personalities, your trip to space is anything but certain. Astronaut: The Best provides unpredictable situations that you must resolve with astronauts.
The result is a comedic situation where you attempt to fix problems, hoping failure isn’t around the corner. Astronauts have varying quirks and you learn about them at random opportunities, adding a level of challenge. You also have scenarios to balance before your trip to space is even approved. Balancing unpredictable quirks and scenario completion results in a high learning curve. But if you take failure in stride, there’s an entertaining strategy game that has you chuckling as you play.
Fix the multiverse by successfully going into space
The story of Astronaut: The Best starts with the country of Flaustria creating a space program. They prepare a qualified astronaut but eventually fail to suppress their personality. You inevitably bungle your launch, closing the space program and leading to your “disposal”. Fortunately, Flaustria’s lion symbol awakens and proposes hopping to different dimensions to save yourself.
The lion asks you for help as it begins fading out of existence. It asks you to go to several dimensions where Flaustria just started its space program and make a successful launch. By successfully launching into space, you might figure out what’s happening. This begins your dimension-hopping journey as you launch into space, determined to save Flaustria’s national symbol.
Astronaut: The Best has three different scenarios for you to work with and understand the game’s mechanics. Once you complete them, the option for sandbox play becomes available. Each scenario is challenging and helps you understand the game’s mechanics. The scenarios also have different resolutions which let you choose the ending you like. It’s great at preventing you from feeling like there’s only one right option, letting you choose what you believe is right.
The different resolutions allow you to experience the inherent wackiness of Flaustria. Whether it’s accepting bribes to throw a boxing match or exorcising ghosts with a seance, your astronauts must be ready. It helps you feel the absurdity of the game’s setting, which contributes to the humour when events happen. It’s not a long game, even when you learn about the true ending. The true ending isn’t the most satisfying conclusion as it feels forced, with less humour than the other scenarios. But it does wrap up the game’s loose ends properly, giving you a feeling of accomplishment at the end.
Space needs the best of the best
The key goal of Astronaut: The Best is to make astronauts ready for space. You must train your astronauts in five stats: piloting, procedure, fitness, charm, and beauty. If your astronauts aren’t the best they can be, accidents happen which jeopardizes the launch. Even before you set off, there are various events that your astronauts must participate in.
Your astronauts have various traits that boost or hinder their stats. Having an astronaut who’s great at everything is unlikely, meaning you must decide whether a trait is worth keeping. If you need someone who’s great at piloting with some fitness, is it worth a reduction in charm? Factoring traits along with regular training adds a layer of strategy when building your ideal crew. It’s a tough balancing act, but a work of art when it succeeds.
Training isn’t free and you must rely on funding from the five high priests of Flaustria. By buttering them up, agreeing to their whims, or bribing them, they offer more money to build your team. Disagreeing with their decisions or turning them down makes them offer less money, making it harder to go to space. If you manage to garner high levels of support, a high priest will grant you a special object that makes your life easier.
“The unpredictable factor is part of the game’s charm.”
Being best friends with all of the high priests is almost impossible, as they have demands that force you to take sides. Do your astronauts forgo proper medicine in exchange for more funding? That’s a decision you must make while thinking of the long-term repercussions. There’s an argument for both sides and it’s possible to win scenarios even if you make “silly” decisions. It comes down to luck in most cases, and the unpredictable factor is part of the game’s charm.
Unpredictability makes every trip to space unique
Astronaut: The Best takes the unpredictable factor and turns the dial up to 11. Every astronaut you encounter has a variety of random traits. You already know one or two at the start, but the rest must be unlocked. Some are found through training, others appear at the day’s conclusion, and some appear randomly without warning.
The end-of-day events are also random, which can activate traits for better or for worse. The consequences of some traits aren’t always apparent, activating at inopportune times. For example, the Astronaut Killer trait provides a fantastic boost to procedure and charm. But you never know if and when that trait backfires on you. Do you keep the trait and take the risk? Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t.
There are also times when traits can activate during the launch itself! It’s hilarious and horrifying when you see an astronaut get a trait during that time. It’s always a funny trait but it now endangers your launch in a big way. You are never in complete control of the future and that’s a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it makes every scenario unique enough that it’s always a new challenge. Even if you have a few scenarios under your belt, there’s always something that threatens to derail your progress. You must stay vigilant and explore all of your options, even if it means making unsavoury choices that you despise. It keeps the game fresh and extends the gameplay well past the story’s completion.
Unfortunately, this also results in a steep learning curve. While the game’s tutorial does a great job with the basics, you must spend time figuring out which traits and events are beneficial. Even if you max out a specific stat, success isn’t always guaranteed. It is frustrating to constantly experiment but get caught off-guard at the last second.
It takes a while to fully grasp the mechanics, but the game doesn’t leave you hanging. You are expected to succeed, and several rewards make it easier to win future scenarios.
One small step for man, one giant leap for the future
Even if you completely botch a scenario and disgrace your space program, there are rewards. Every scenario has Glory that is lost or gained depending on how your space program looks to the public. You get special Lion Coins based on the amount of Glory you received during a scenario.
These coins can be traded for upgrades that make future runs easier. As you progress, you also get Bird Coins which monetise losses to Glory, giving you a different set of rewards. You can exchange both types of coins for upgrades, new challenges, or tools to make your future runs easier.
Taking inspiration from the rogue-like genre means that even if you fail, you get something out of it. Even a small amount of Lion or Bird Coins makes a difference later on. It’s good motivation to stick with a scenario and try different things to help you succeed. Failure will be an old friend, but it isn’t a one-sided relationship.
As difficult as Astronaut: The Best can be, it’s genuinely fun to learn about different traits and investigate different outcomes. Each scenario has its own challenges which aren’t easy to overcome even for veterans. It’s not easy and it can be frustrating at times. But if you give the game an honest chance, the humour and challenge will grow on you. Soon you will laugh along with the funny events and masterfully launch your crews into space.
- Unpredictability keeps the game fresh and entertaining
- Lots of strategic layers to explore
- Rewards after every scenario make the game easier
- Steep learning curve because the game is unpredictable
- True ending isn't as entertaining as other scenarios
Astronaut: The Best is a challenging space simulator with a dark sense of humour. Sending astronauts with varying personalities to space is a challenge even in the best of times, and you must make tough decisions. The humour keeps the game entertaining as you struggle to grasp the game’s unpredictability. There’s a steep learning curve since unforeseeable events can turn even the greatest successes into colossal failures. But it keeps gameplay fresh and motivates you to learn everything. Soon you will masterfully send crews to space and even achieve objectives, something that continually stays fun even after the story ends.