I consider myself a fair man. I try to give games their fair shake because, hey, game design is hard. If a designer tries something new, that should be commended even if it does fail. Keep that in mind when I say that Andromeda Wing is bad. It's not even Ride to Hell bad where it at least fails so spectacularly it's funny. The level design is awful, the graphics belong in that old Windows XP pinball game, and the enemies are unfair. The only thing that saves it from being bottom-of-the-barrel bad is the fact that the Space invaders style shooting is at least functional and the music is at least pretty neat sometimes. I can't give too many props for that because the former is a mechanic as old as video games, and the latter cuts out randomly. I guess the developer is pretty active in the development of the game, and it looks like Adam John Adkins, unless that's a bizarre studio name, was the sole developer. It had to be hard work and I feel bad for all the things I'm about to say about it, but my job is to critique the game, not him as a person, so let's rip this thing apart.
Andromeda Wing is available for $5.99 on Steam. At the time of writing it's on sale for $1.49, which is still more than I'd pay for it.
You're a spaceship encountering obstacles and shooting them down before they can hit you. This is an arcade style game, so the story isn't exactly the selling point here. The only hint of a story comes in the form of the blurb on the Steam store page: something about the Andromeda galaxy being under attack and you needing to pilot your ship and upgrade your weapons to secure the galaxy by killing literally all the aliens. That's a decent framework, a bit basic, but so were the arcade games of old that the game seeks to emulate so no problems there. I really hope you aren't too much of the hero though, the annihilation of all alien life isn't something that good guys tend to do.
Mix Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Galaga. Give it some cheap 90s graphics and BAM, Andromeda Wing. Your ship keeps going up and you need to maneuver around the map, dodge enemies, and beat the boss at the end! On the way you grab power ups for shields, damage output, health, and grenades for an inconsistent screen wipe. The shooting and upgrades are fine, but those are mechanics
It isn't a bad game in concept, but it really flops in excecution.
Three is the number of the chances and the number of the chances is three
In classic arcade style, you have three lives. Nothing wrong with that, it's a strong number, magic number if you're nostalgic for Schoolhouse Rock, but the problem lies in that that's all you get. Once those are out, again in classic arcade style, you're starting over from the beginning. Which wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't screw you out of them. You don't really bounce off of walls, obstacles, or enemies, you just kind of go through them and take a bunch of damage. Again, this wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for the game's annoying tendency to throw unexpected deaths at your face. Something like Dark Souls can pull that because there's no limited lives. Your checkpoints hold steady. This is not the case here, which brings me to…
Level Design? What's That?
I get the feeling Andromeda Wing wants to be like one of the hard games that are coming more and more into the popular consciousness: the kind where it pulls unfair things on you but then as soon as you learn what happens you can prepare and turn the tides. That works in something like Dark Souls or Cuphead because if you die, you only get pushed back a small amount. Your bad decisions only really impact your progress on a small portion of the game.
In this, every time you hit an unexpected ambush or the game gives you a fork in the path and you choose poorly and can't go back because you can never go back in this style of game so all you can do is watch in horror as you die, there's a chance you'll be starting the whole thing over and it just isn't worth it.
I'll confess that I don't think I got very far in Andromeda Wing, so I can't speak for boss variety, but I can say that the ones I played were some of the worst I've ever had to deal with. The boss has a health bar, but as you shoot it and it lights up in the universal game language for "yes, good job, damage should be applied," it seems none the worse for wear. I could only stomach two bosses: the spider and the nautilus. The spider I could only beat since a recent game update spoiled the strategy of breaking it's legs, then face, then eyes, then body. With the nautilus, however, I knew I was supposed to shoot it's eye at some point, but it never took any damage or really reacted in any way to what I was doing. That combined with obnoxious attacks that you can't really avoid; such as the spider's web that drags you in but deals damage even if you don't touch the boss, make these boss battles painful to say the least.
Graphics and audio
What is it with 90s nostalgia in graphics? No, seriously, I don't get it. I grew up in the 90s and I think, with an exception of those stylized to the point of timelessness, those games look awful. So here we have a game that feels like Omega Flowey from Undertale took more than a few assets from the Space Cadet pinball game for Windows XP. Lighting? Texures? What are those? I will say, in fairness, the enemies aren't designed poorly, they just look bad in the game. They aren't good enough to get away with a lack of style, and they aren't stylized enough for their quality.
The music is passable at best. Still not great, but I didn't feel my ears bleed. The problem I have is in the inconsistency. There's no music in the title screen and it mysteriously cut out in both of the boss battles I played the music suddenly cut out, and with no other ambient music but my gun going pew pew, the bosses felt less like epic space battles and more like you're squashing a large pest.
Look, I have nothing against the developer, but as I game I didn't play much but it didn't take long for it to be more than I could stomach. The shooting itself is functional, but the level design is awful, the graphics are laughable, and the music isn't terrible but it has a nasty tendency to cut out at the worst times. The lives system paired with the occasionally unfair levels makes this game nigh unplayable.
You may be under the impression that I'm raging at this game, which could be the case after space bugs jumped out at me several times and made me have to go through this whole experience again. I don't really understand the positive reviews this game has been getting. Yeah I get that one guy made it, and hats of to him, it can't be easy. But man could I not stand this one. Mainly as I write however, I just feel disappointed. The best thing that can be said about Andromeda Wing is that it is by and large inoffensive, but that's a really low bar. If you're looking for a better arcade shoot-em-up, I'd say check another galaxy.
|+ Shooting is competent||– Bad level design|
|+ Enemy designs aren't all bad||– Ambushing enemies|
|+ Music isn't bad||– Limited lives system punishes you for not anticipating what the level will throw at you|
|– Terrible graphics|
|– Music cuts out in boss fights|