The Nintendo Switch really is being blessed with games lately. It’s pretty exciting, honestly. This time around, I got to take a look at MO: Astray, which originally released for PC in October of 2019. However, on September 10th of this year, MO: Astray hit the smaller screens in the form of the Switch port!
At this stage, ladies and gentlemen, I think you all know what I’m like. If it’s horror, I’ll play it, or if it’s on Switch, I’ll play it. Honestly, I hadn’t heard about this game before the Switch port came up, although that does happen a lot with indie games. Another thing to note is that this game was very well received on PC.
But that’s not the point, so let’s just get right into it!
So, what is MO: Astray?
MO: Astray is a side-scrolling, puzzle-solving action game in pixelated style with some visual aspects of horror. The game implements these styles well, especially within the intriguing level designs. The enemy design is also on the slightly weirder side, but it works well in this style.
I really can’t talk about this game and not mention the story. You play as MO, who honestly looks like a cute, glowy blob. MO does learn some cool new abilities as you move through the levels but is still going to be adorable. That’s where the story really surprised me. Without spoiling anything, the story takes a much darker turn than one would expect for something so cute. The game also knows how to make you feel, and it’s definitely worth hanging on through the credits to get the full experience. Trust me on this one.
Let’s get techy!
Let’s talk about the graphics first! I love it when a pixelated style is done well. I love it in art, but I really love it in games. MO: Astray has really implemented this style well. I’ve seen so many games that have tried this style but didn’t quite nail it for one reason or another. Not this one. The pixelated style isn’t completely blocky, and the backgrounds don’t stick out like a sore thumb. The overall colour palette really comes into play here. Everything is very cohesive, and that heightens the atmosphere of each level.
Gameplay, ah gameplay. You were not my friend here. I think the easiest way to sum this part up is like a platformer that isn’t actually a platformer. Let me explain. The basic controls are alright, move left to right and vice versa. That’s all okay. It’s where you essentially fire yourself at things. I guess that would maybe be the jump mechanic? And maybe it’s just me, but no matter what I did, I could not get the hang of this other than for wall jumping.
You know, the most basic thing, jump from wall to wall to climb up or down. Now, it’s not specifically the jump that was awkward. It was the aim. To actually get where you want to, you really need to get that aim just right. Miss it and you just fall back to the ground, or into a trap. It gets even more awkward in boss battles, but at that point, it just gets massively frustrating. Specifically the first boss fight. This does improve the further into the game you get, with the more abilities you learn. In early stages though, I just found it to be a pain.
What’s the verdict?
If you haven’t guessed this by now, I am MASSIVELY about story. The story is what always makes or breaks a game for me. A game could be the most visually stunning thing in the universe, but if the story isn’t there, I’m not gonna like it. You could have Sir David Attenborough narrate your entire game, but if the story is weak? No thanks. A good story also makes up for weaker aspects of a game. Unless the game is totally broken, but that’s a different thing altogether.
MO: Astray wonderfully blends an intriguing story with a darker atmosphere. The design of MO also emotes this need to protect, to save. This little guy is so cute, I would have done anything to protect him. That’s something that really stood out for me. It was never a case of “oh, I need to do this just to get out of here.” There is just something about MO himself that I just connected with.
This completely made up for the issues I had starting out with the actual gameplay. One thing that I do really need to note though; this is the first Switch game I’ve played that I prefered in TV mode. This was a very weird experience for me because my draw to having a Switch is the handheld aspect. This game just felt and played better on a bigger screen with a more controller-like feel.
MO: Astray was another hidden gem for me, and one I’m definitely glad I had the opportunity to play. Honestly, I’ll probably play it again just because MO is so cute.
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