Game Review: Astro Duel Deluxe (Switch)

The Nintendo Switch is rapidly becoming the go-to console for local multiplayer. This is a Nintendo staple and something that has been somewhat neglected by current-gen offerings from Sony and Microsoft. Before all the Mario doo-dahs and Yoshi doo-hickeys take over, though, some indies have risen to the challenge of drawing first blood. An affordable price and love-letters to “Zelda” made “Kamiko” a success. Can “Astro Duel Deluxe” do the same for local multiplayer games? Let’s find out.

Let’s get it out of the way first: yes, “Astro Duel Deluxe” is an iOS port. However, games like “Oceanhorn” have proven that this isn’t necessarily a good thing. We must look past the humble origins of the game, then, and evaluate it on its own merits.

The basic gist of it all is this: you must (in a variety of game modes) kill your opponent’s ship or ship and pilot in an arena-like versus match to the death. Graphics are retro, music is thumping. Is it any good, then?

In a word, yes. Quite.

There’s a huge appeal to the simple fact of being in the same room as the person whose ship you’re sending to oblivion. It’s just a hell of a lot of fun to watch their expressions and hear them laugh in rage as they get torn apart by a laser wall.

The level design is very clever, too, with different obstacles and powerups making each stage distinctive, individual and challenging in their own way. There were a few times where a stage would be a much worse enemy to deal with than my opponents (be they human or computerized).

I played through all of the game modes with my fiancee Haru, who has been kind enough to review some stuff with me in the past. Here’s what she had to say about “Astro Duel Deluxe”:

The controller scheme is difficult to get used to if you’re a non-gamer, which might be an entry barrier not present in other party games like Mario Party or Mario Kart. But the core gameplay is fun, challenging and great to enjoy in small groups.

I found the music to be one of the highlights of the game. Thumping chiptunes made each match that much more exciting to play. There is some very minimal voicing to stuff like “Red Team Wins” that is robotized and actually quite pleasant.

There are three game-modes but we found the regular versus mode and the chaos mode (this one being exclusive to the Switch version, simply adding more powerups and other minor tweaks) to be the most fun. CPUs are way too smart for beginners, though, so it may be a good idea to simply play among friends at first. Party mode is played with the touch screen and while it is a novel idea, we didn’t find it as rewarding.

Not all is rosy in the land of duels, though: there is no single player campaign, nor is there online battling. While I don’t really mind the absence of either, it may play a huge part in the decision making for some. Specially considering the other thing I don’t particularly like: the price. A whole $15 makes “Astro Duel Deluxe” three times as expensive as “Kamiko”. And while there is definitely more replay value to the former, the latter was developed exclusively for the Switch (instead of being a port) and it quickly became the darling of both the public and critics alike. It is known that publishing to a Nintendo console is not without its (rather big) costs, but comparisons are drawn and everywhere I looked I saw the same comment: “this game looks great but for $15 I think they’re a little light on content and I don’t think I can justify the purchase”.

Sadly, it is a point against which is hard to argue.

That said, if money is not an issue, and you’re aching for a retro-inspired way of pissing off your friends and family members, “Astro Duel Deluxe” really does offer a lot of entertainment and polish in a tight package that, while a little on the light side, will certainly satisfy your thirst for couch competitiveness.

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