Astro Boy : Omega Factor is a slick side scrolling action game from Treasure, the developers of smash games in the same genre including the classic Gunstar Heroes on the Megadrive / Genesis. The same quality and playability of their past works is carried on nicely in Astroboy for the GBA, screenfulls of enemies to destroy with a range of attacks and weapons, slick animation throughout and most importantly – playability by the shedload.

They'll be sorry when i'm armed

In Astroboy Omega Factor you are play Astro, a robot who finds himself well decked out in the fighting and weaponry departments, fortunately all of the attacks at your disposal are both easy to use and extremely useful, you get your basic punches and kicks provided by the B button with which you will defeat scores and scores of enemies but that’s by no means all you have, pressing up and B button together will allow you to use the incredibly useful finger beam, L will have Astro whip out a Machine-Gun and hit everything on the screen while R will invoke my personal favourite weapon which involves a thick beam of energy going screaming across the screen a la the Ion Cannon found on Iron Man in Marvel games, both the finger laser and its big brother can and will penetrate multiple foes across the screen leading to some fast screen clearing action.

Player, meet Astro

The ins and outs of moving around and using your weapons are explained in a first-level tutorial that you get when you start a new game, this is pretty slick and serves its purpose well, everything you need to know is explained to you. After you get used to moving you are taught about your ‘soul’, your soul is the Omega Factor of the games title and it works like this, as you progress through the game you will meet various characters who you can speak to, each one that you speak to will get their ‘image imprinted on your soul’ as the game explains which basically means that you get to allocate a stat point to various aspects of your robotic self, you can upgrade your weaponry to make it more effective with you finger beam in a nice touch changing color as you do so or give yourself more life, more boost or better punches with each stat point allocated, you can also upgrade your sensors which will allow you to see better or more clearly in dark areas or other areas in which you are visually impaired. The tutorial also explains that your score represents the ‘number of neurons in your brain’ which would amusingly mean that you start the game brain-dead.

As you defeat your enemies you gain ‘EX’ bars, consumed when you bring out the L and R specials, you can also use up an EX bar in a dash attack that comes complete with kicks and punches too, and the game isn’t stingy with the EX bars either, beating on relatively few enemies will earn you the majority of an EX bar, sometimes using your special weaponry will cause so much damage to the opposition that you will end up with more EX bars than you had when you performed the attack to begin with.

As you progress through the game you will meet various boss characters, these are generally well done and fun to fight with some bosses growing larger as the battle progresses or changing into different forms for you to defeat.

As with most side scrollers though the bosses generally have a fixed pattern of attack for you to figure out and base your attacks on and a certain weak point to be exploited and repeatedly battered, you will find that with fully enhanced beam weapons your R button special will make very light work of some of the bosses, in fact a with fully powered up beam weaponry you can make light work of the majority of the enemies you will face provided you have enough EX bars to pull it off.

Mixed in with the scrolling action you will find some levels in which you are required to fly, the game changes to a side scrolling shooter for these parts like thunderforce or defender, the difference between the flying sections and the platform parts is that you will rely almost entirely on your finger beam which is activated by holding the B button down in the flying segments of the game.

The storyline unfolds as you play through via various cut-scenes which are presented in a nice albeit cutesy anime style. The storyline can be a bit confusing and maybe unintentionally funny at times, for example early on in the game in one level you will encounter a rabbit, horse and duck in a big rubber tyre, an artificial sun which has been stolen from a laboratory, a man hunting the devil and then in a seemingly unintentionally explanatory way a man who introduces himself as “Mr Skunk”. The storyline carries on to include ancient lost civilizations and conflict between robots and humans, particularly a group of humans who believe that the robots are merely tools of humanity and should have absolutely no rights whatsoever – they get quite riled up when a robot becomes president of a continent.

The gameplay does get frantic at times with the onslaught of enemies onscreen, you will really learn to make use of your dash move which allows you to move across the screen without taking damage from your foes, dashing to one side of the screen and then wiping out a screenfull of bad guys with a powered up beam special does feel good.

Overall I would recommend Astro Boy : Omega Factor to anyone partial to the side scrolling blaster genre and to anyone who enjoys a good pick-up-and-play blast in general, the game looks good, has amusing and interesting plot and comes packed with all the smooth weaponry you would expect of the creators of games like Gunstar Heroes ie fun to use, different and well executed weaponry, definitely a game to check out if you have the GBA.