Astral Traveler is a new title from developer Dragon Slumber which releases today, September 13th, on Steam.

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Vaguely emulating the aesthetic of F-Zero, Astral Traveler is an indie runner racer. The game is comprised of short stages that, upon completion, will unlock a the next nebula, totaling forty-seven different courses across five environments. As you race down each track, you’ll dodge environmental obstacles, blast away aliens, and try to survive until the end of the zone. Astral Traveler will track your times and post to leaderboards so you can compete with your friends and the rest of the gaming community.

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Unfortunately, I don’t imagine you’ll find much of your friends list on Astral Traveler‘s boards as its gameplay is underwhelming, even for the $5 price tag. While the premise is simple enough, the execution is not. Nintendo 64 era patterned textures quickly zoom by as players have only a split-second to decipher the difference between environment and obstacle. Should players be unfortunate enough to crash their ship into an obstacle, they’ll need a bit of time and a lot of luck to recover and get back on track. Hazards pop up so quickly and are placed so closely together, that it regularly requires colliding into several targets before there is a discernible path to safety. And this is only the first stage.

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Astral Traveler is designed to be brutally challenging. I take no issue with falling to the difficulty of a game. However, there is a crucial balance between challenge and opportunity that must exist within the design, or else the player occupies a no win scenario, eliminating the victory element that is so essential to a game.

While Astral Traveler is indeed a low cost title, design flaws make it difficult to enjoy, even for its value.

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Copy of Astral Traveler was provided by the developer.

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