Developer: Archplay, Rayark Inc
Publisher: Rayark Inc
Platforms: PC, Switch
Released: October 2019 (PC), September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 2D adventure puzzle
It’s dark, shadowy, and you don’t know anything, except how to move, and then how to jump.
And then, how to remember.
A little blob, you make your way through this mysterious world, absorbing memories of other creatures. And like a dream, you awaken from this world, and find yourself in a laboratory. Destroyed, overgrown, and filled with danger.
MO: Astray is a beautiful 2D game, with a gorgeous pixel artstyle, where you play as a memory slime, capable of possessing and accessing the last memories, or the strongest memories, of that creature. Some of them are human, others are not.
Most were once human.
Slowly, through the world and the memories you access, you begin to piece together what was here, why you’re here, and what happened. And as you explore, dodging danger, a voice guides you, lamenting what once was, cheering you on. That voice gives you a name.
Gameplay is surprisingly simple! You have the ability to move and jump, but you can also stick to surfaces. So that manages getting around for the most part. But Mo has the interesting ability to possess other creatures, although what you can do once you possess them is limited. You can make them walk, activate buttons, and unlock doors Mo wouldn’t be able to unlock on their own. You can’t directly attack anyone, but you can move them around and manipulate your environment. With a well-timed flick of a switch, you can crush enemies, move boxes around, and open and lock doors. But you’d be surprised by how much you can do by simply jumping out of the way at the right moment.
You move from area to area by solving various puzzles, but believe me, finding the solution and then executing the solution are two separate tasks. It’s rather forgiving, in that if you do die, you simply respawn at the start of the room, so you never lose a lot of progress. But I did find myself having to put my switch down for a quick break after failing a jump for the billionth time.
It’s a challenging game, but not a punishing one.
However, the real bread and butter comes from Mo’s ability to access memories. Throughout the game you find large blobs of memories that give you insight into the past, but also makes you just a little bit stronger. And when you possess a creature, dead, alive, or otherwise, you can see their strongest or last memory.
It’s rather haunting.
As you progress you unlock new abilities, and learn new ways to get around. Jumping from bubble to bubble, learning how to double-jump, and even learning how to clone yourself and control your clone creates interesting and varied ways to navigate these levels, and come up with solutions to puzzles.
Sound, like the environment and art, is beautifully crafted, unifying your experience seamlessly. It is satisfying, descriptive, and immersive, without being distracting, or a hindrance. For this reason, I recommend wearing earphones, settling down, and get ready to get sucked into this world where you know so little, but learn so much.
MO: Astray is a beautiful, challenging, interesting game that is full of heart and care. There is so much detail put into the world that the team has created, with a unique culture, creatures I wanted to understand and get into the head of, and a tone of darkness that thrums throughout the game. I’ve not yet finished the game, but I have enjoyed every moment so far. Even when I would mess up a puzzle a dozen times, I would attempt it a dozen and one times because I need to know more about what happened. Mo and I are on this journey together.
What are these parasitic plants? Why are all humans like this? What was this facility for? Why am I here?