If you’re not familiar with MO:Astray beyond its utterly weird name, then it's high time you start paying attention. Originally released on Steam back in October 2019 to little fanfare, MO:Astray is a 2D puzzle-platformer boasting unique gameplay mechanics, meticulously designed environments, and gorgeous pixelated visuals. There are flavours of the Metroidvania genre sprinkled into MO:Astray, but it’s an altogether more linear experience, and all the better for it.
You play as an unassuming blob called MO. Initially, MO’s movements are severely restrained, and it can only slide across the ground in a rather pitiful manner. After absorbing a bit of energy early on, MO gains the ability to leap and stick to walls and ceilings. In doing so, it’s able to bounce around the environment with ease, flitting between parallel surfaces and propelling itself through the air. It’s a surprisingly versatile way of navigation; you utilise the right analogue stick to point MO in the desired direction, and tap L or LT to jump, with the strength of your jump dependent on how far you move the analogue stick.
As you progress, you’ll gain new abilities such as the classic double jump, and the ability to possess nearby creatures by latching to their heads, like a parasite. Every ability is fully utilised, and nothing wasted. Even better, there’s very little – if any – backtracking involved, so you’re constantly moving forwards, learning new ways to tackle the environments and defeat your enemies. Boss battles are also plentiful, and we were consistently surprised by their unique design and, quite frankly, their intimidating move set.
If we had to complain about anything (and we’re stretching here), it’s that death can come thick and fast if you’re not careful. The majority of the game feels like a very carefully constructed platformer that reminds us of Celeste in some ways, but there are a few occasions in which you’ll be pulling your hair out over the tiniest of errors. Thankfully, respawning is almost instantaneous, and for the majority of the time, you can be safe in the knowledge that most deaths are a result of your own mistake, and not the game itself.
MO:Astray is so confident in every facet, including its slick gameplay, well-implemented backstory, and stunningly atmospheric visuals. This is a grim, gory game, but one that retains a level of charm that could perhaps be likened to the Metroid franchise. There are so many wonderful surprises around every corner, whether it’s a new ability or a fearsomely intimidating boss battle. Don’t let MO:Astray fall under the radar; it’s a real treat and deserves to gain a place in your library.