Astro Duel Deluxe from Rusty Moyher and Panic Button Games is a multiplayer arcade-style game that pits you and up to 5 other people in a futuristic battle to the death. It's clearly inspired by the classic game Asteroid, from the visual style all the way to the simplistic controls. The game already came out on Steam last year (only called Astro Duel). This newer version on the Nintendo Switch offers a few more options of play, albeit with a bigger price tag.
Astro Duel Deluxe is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99. There is no physical release at the time of this review.
Communication is key. That's why it's crucial for a game to captivate its audience the moment you boot up the title screen. Unfortunately, this is where Astro Duel Deluxe takes too many beats from the arcade days. When you load up the game, you'll be presented with a painfully lifeless title screen, that has very little going on. It looks like something you'd find on an NES cartridge.
Once you start the game, you are immediately presented with 3 different options of play, some settings, and nothing else. Again, the selection screen is fairly lifeless and doesn't invite you to start playing. Regardless of how the game is presented, though, it really comes down to how enjoyable the actual game is. In those terms, how does Astro Duel Deluxe stack up?
As I said earlier, Astro Duel Deluxe is very simple. Once you start the game, you have the choice of three different modes: Classic, Party, and Chaos. While they all shake up the gameplay in their own ways, they're simple variations on the core mechanics of the game.
Classic Mode is the balanced and standard mode that you'll likely start with. You can face up to four other ships as you try to blast each other into oblivion. As you fly across these arenas, there are asteroids you can blow up to collect different power-ups that give you an edge in combat.
Party Mode is perhaps the most gimmicky aspect of Astro Duel Deluxe. It's probably fun for a single time and then you'll never play it again. This mode controls by having up to four people use the touchscreen on the Switch. Each corner is given to one person and allows them to only turn right and shoot. Because of this, Party Mode is not only difficult to manage with multiple people (I banged my head on a few of my friends) but is extremely difficult to control. If you miss your opponent while turning toward them, you have to make a complete cycle before you can get another shot.
Then there's Chaos Mode, which is probably the most fun aspect of this game. This mode supports up to 6 players with just about every configuration that the Switch offers. From there, you are all placed in close proximity to each other with more power-ups spawning throughout the match. This mode gets completely hectic. You'll be focused on taking down one ship before you get blasted yourself. It's frantic and every bit as chaotic as the title suggests.
Each of these three modes also has four different options for how you want to play: Ship Hunters, Pilot Hunters, Team Deathmatch, and Team Annihilation. Ship Hunters is as quick as it gets. Try to take down your opponents, but if you get hit once with a laser, you're eliminated. Pilot Hunters is a bit more unique. If you get blasted, your ship is gone, but your pilot moves around helplessly. If you survive long enough, you will get another ship to jump back into the fray. Team Deathmatch and Team Annihilation are simple teamed variants of Pilot Hunters and Ship Hunters. Needless to say, there is some variety in the modes offered here.
Moving toward the battles themselves, they control as well as you'd expect for a game inspired by Asteroid. Movement is centered to only moving the joystick left and right, and the thruster, guns, and special weapons are all relegated to their own buttons. It's a simple concept to understand, and the game gives everyone a quick opportunity to learn how it works by having you complete a lap before each set of matches begins. While I normally dislike tutorials of this nature, Astro Duel Deluxe handles it well by making it only last a few seconds.
I should mention that Astro Duel Deluxe is a game designed for local multiplayer. There are no single player options other than playing the regular modes with AI opponents. There are also no online modes.
Graphics and audio
Astro Duel Deluxe is not a gorgeous game. Instead, it takes a pixelated art style that harkens back to old arcade machines, including blocky objects and sharp corners. That said, there are plenty of explosions, colors, and flying body parts of pilots to keep your eyes pleased at all times. You'll never drop your jaw in amazement, but the game knows what it is and accomplishes what it needs to given that.
In the audio department, the game is sort of a mixed bag. The music itself is a combination of catchy and atmospheric tunes. It captures the loneliness of space while emphasizing the ridiculous battle that's ensuing on screen. Furthermore, all of the sound effects are in prime condition, also taking a page out of popular arcade games. Where the audio falls short is that some of the music can get strangely staticky, to the point where I thought there was a problem with my speakers. There is an announcer who talks through the entire game who sounds so distorted that it was both annoying and difficult to understand. Luckily, you can turn the voice off in the settings.
Up to this point, my complaints with Astro Duel Deluxe have been fairly minor, considering what the game is at its core. The one big issue I have with it all is the content that's packed in. While it has the word "deluxe" in the title, this game only seems like an appetizer before the main course.
Allow me to put this in perspective. For all of the modes in the game, there are only thirteen maps. It won't be long before you start seeing the same environments over again. Even if you set the stage selection to random, you'll likely run into the same arena twice in a row.
On top of this, there are only six characters to choose from. Considering that you can play with up to 6 people, this is quite pitiful. What makes this worse is that the characters only move around before hopping into a ship or being destroyed, so it wouldn't require a lot of programming to add a few more in.
Then there are the modes themselves. The three modes offered are fun, but don't offer enough variety to keep players coming back for more and only two out of the three are worth playing. While these modes are fine for what they are, they don't offer anything to the people who want more of a challenge or don't have a lot of friends. There is no specific single-player content and no online play. Think of how fun it would be to buddy up with a few friends and go online for a Team Annihilation. Perhaps a future update?
All in all, this lack of content isn't a deal breaker, but it's something to consider for a game that has a $14.99 price tag.
At the end of the day, Astro Duel Deluxe is a fun time if you've got friends. It's zany action followed by its simplistic art style make it a pure joy to pick up and play. Classic and Chaos Mode both offer solid gameplay that will never go out of style. Unfortunately, the game never does anything new enough to fully earn the "deluxe" moniker due to a lack of content and a somewhat unreasonable price.
|+ Solid gameplay||– Not enough content|
|+ Fun multiplayer experience||– Poor presentation|
|+ Chaos Mode||– No single-player or online modes|