Astro Duel Deluxe is not a long or sophisticated game, but it is occasionally a fun one. There is no campaign, and there is no story, but there is a focus on good, old-fashioned local multiplayer fun. Supporting up to six players in various configurations (including via Joy-Con or Pro Controller, and for up to four players using the Switch touchscreen), Astro Duel Deluxe is definitely versatile.
As a single player proposition, Astro Duel Deluxe doesn’t have much to offer. Basically all modes (Pilot Hunter, Ship Hunter or team variants of the same) are available (and the AI is competent) but the game provides merely a limited appeal. Players will be able to get used to the controls, physics and firing systems in the game, but because each of those features is simple anyway, it’s kind of a moot point. I guess one plus point for being able to play in single player mode (for lack of any other) is that Astro Duel Deluxe is quick and simple, so it may appeal to some people on short commutes.
The developers appear to freely admit that the majority of the game focus is on local multiplayer, and in all fairness, Astro Duel Deluxe is quite feature rich in this area. The game supports up to six players via basically any imaginable combination of Joy-Con’s and Pro Controllers. This is by far the most fun and enjoyable mode to play Astro Duel Deluxe in, especially with the optimal number of four players. Players compete to score points (for pilot or ship kills depending on the mode) across multiple stages, with the first to achieve the set number of kills being declared the winner.
Gameplay is not complicated, and player simply navigate their ship around a small, single screen arena that may or may not feature hazards such as walls, meteors and laser beams that damage all players. A single hit will destroy the player ship, and once the vulnerable pilot is floating in space, he or she can be killed by being ran over by another ship, or with a well placed shot. In the Pilot Hunter mode, this often leads to opportunities to steal pilot kills from rivals after a ship is destroyed, which adds to the kind of chaotic fun that characterises most decent local multiplayer games.
Levels are quite varied when left on random, and the game does a decent job of keeping things moving at a decent pace. There are a large number of different modifiers that players can apply to each game, so it’s possible to really ramp up the difficulty of the AI bots and the levels for experienced players, or simplify things for newbies. There are several different characters to choose from, but in all honesty, I never found a difference between them besides their cosmetic appearance – but I stand to be corrected.
I mentioned before that Astro Duel Deluxe has a touch screen mode for up to four players, but sadly, I found it to be almost unplayable – albeit equally bad for all concerned, so there are no unfair advantages. In the touch screen mode, each ship moves forward automatically, and the player has two “wedge” shaped buttons in their corner of the screen that allow the ship to fire or to rotate right. Arenas in this mode are made artificially smaller by barriers to each side, but whenever a level features complex terrain to navigate, the game becomes a real chore to play. I can imagine this being appealing for very brief, very occasional periods of play, but nothing beyond that.
Astro Duel Deluxe is £14.99, which is not exactly expensive, but at the same time, it is much less than half the game Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is, and it’s also quite inferior to many of the £5-7 games available on Nintendo Switch. It may not be aimed at the same audience, but you’d be much better off buying both of Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Metal Slug 3, for example, or spending a few more quid and getting a better game like Puyo Puyo Tetris. There is some fun to be had with Astro Duel Deluxe, especially if you can ensure four players (with their own controllers) on a regular basis, but if you’re a solo player, you should steer well clear.
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