Astronaut The Best Beta review: Comedy of errors

Astronaut The Best is an fantastic and unique combination of traditional text-based adventure and roguelike elements (Image via Universal Happymaker)
Astronaut The Best is an fantastic and unique combination of traditional text-based adventure and roguelike elements (Image via Universal Happymaker)

Astronaut The Best is easily one of the most unique and fascinating games I played this year, period. From its premise to the rather convoluted yet comprehensive gameplay systems, developer Universal Happymaker really struck a fine balance when it comes to delivering a rather charming and fun "visual-novel-roguelite" hybrid.

The demo I got to play was roughly a couple of hours long but is infinitely replayable, thanks to the roguelite nature of the gameplay systems. The premise revolves around you, the player managing a group of astronauts, and a program centered around training space explorers.

The gameplay is pretty much like Scott Cawthon's "Five Nights at Freddy's," but without the horror factor. I was initially intimidated by the number of things I had to manage at the start of each run, but once I spent a good few hours with the demo, it all clicked, and I really started having fun playing the game.

That's not to say Astronaut The Best has no flaws, because it does, and its issues are quite detrimental to the overall experience, especially for anyone who might be a newcomer to these kinds of games.


Astronaut The Best, a complex yet thoroughly enjoyable text-adventure/ roguelike

The best thing about Astronaut The Best is its comical storyline that fits quite well with its gameplay premise. The game's basic premise is to undertake certain tasks ranging from training the astronauts to managing the show's finances, all in the name of impressing the High Priests. Overseeing the astronaut training program is something I really enjoyed.

Given the game follows a roguelike progression, the astronauts you get on every new run are completely randomized and keep the gameplay fresh. I did get a little lost when I first started the game, in part due to the complexity of the gameplay systems.

However, once I played the game for roughly two hours, I got quite comfortable with the gameplay and even started a fresh new run right after finishing my first playthrough. Astronaut The Best does not hold your hand and believes in you to understand the complex mechanics behind each of its choices and systems.

The art style and animations add a lot to the game's immersion factor (Image via Astronaut The Best/ Universal Happymaker)
The art style and animations add a lot to the game's immersion factor (Image via Astronaut The Best/ Universal Happymaker)

As a fan and veteran of FromSoftware's "Souls" games, I personally like this approach. However, I realize that some players might get detracted by the lack of hand-holding in a game that is otherwise quite difficult to grasp, especially during the first few runs.


Things I liked about Astronaut The Best Beta

One of the striking aspects of Astronaut The Best (apart from its stellar gameplay) is its visuals and art style. The game's visuals remind me of some of my favorite childhood cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Test, and even Powerpuff Girls (yes, I used to be a Powerpuff Girls fan back in the day). While it may not be completely original, it does stand out amongst the games I've played recently.

Every astronaut that you get to train at the start of each run has randomized stats and personalities (Image via Astronaut The Best/ Universal Happymaker)
Every astronaut that you get to train at the start of each run has randomized stats and personalities (Image via Astronaut The Best/ Universal Happymaker)

Another big feature that captivated me and hooked me for the demo was the comedic tone of the dialogue and the entire premise. Although I'm not a fan of text-based adventures or visual-novel gameplay systems, I do like a good story, especially if it's narrated in a way that holds my attention via its characters or the premise itself.

Every decision you make impacts your run, and most often than not, you will have your expectations subverted in ways you might not have predicted. Although the premise sounds quite serious, it's delivered in a charming and comedic manner, making the game much more enjoyable.

Seeing my decisions eventually spiral into a cascade of unexpected outcomes never ceased to amaze me, with most of the decisions made in the early hours resulting in some really hilarious situations, a "comedy of errors," if you will.

The entire premise of you having to manage everything, from training the astronauts to preparing them and making them presentable in front of the High Priests, all while trying to impress the judges with your skills to avoid getting killed, is as whacky as it sounds.

The game gives you complete control over the astronauts' stat distribution. However, allocating the desired stats does not necessarily mean the astronauts will do as you expect them to. There's always a chance of things going south and the High Priests getting annoyed by your lack of enthusiasm regarding the program's success. If your astronauts fail to impress the judges and get anything below a rating of 100, they will be considered a failure.

Managing the astronauts while also trying to please the High Priests is a daunting task (Image via Astronaut The Best/ Universal Happymaker)
Managing the astronauts while also trying to please the High Priests is a daunting task (Image via Astronaut The Best/ Universal Happymaker)

However, if you do succeed in impressing the High Priests, you will be subjected to more tasks that gradually lead you towards sending your precious candidates to space. I enjoyed the moment-to-moment gameplay here, and I'm looking forward to what Universal Happymaker has in store for us with the full release.

Lastly, I should mention the game's stellar PC performance, which is really hard to come by nowadays. If Astronaut The Best's beta version is any indication, I'm quite certain the final release build of the game will be a phenomenal PC port with zero stability or performance issues.

I tested out the game on two separate PCs, one being a low-end laptop equipped with Core i5 7200U CPU, GeForce 940MX GPU, and 16 GB of RAM, and the second machine being a desktop PC with Ryzen 5 5600 CPU, GTX 1660 Super GPU and 32 GB of RAM. The game ran flawlessly in both machines without any performance or stability issues.


Things that left me somewhat skeptical

While I enjoyed my time with Astronaut The Best's beta a lot, I have a few complaints that I hope will be addressed by the time the game releases. First and foremost, I think reducing the pace at which the tutorials are doled out needs to be adjusted.

The game tries to explain a lot right out of the bat, and that can get overwhelming for anyone coming fresh to titles like these. Secondly, there are a few mechanics that I think the game should explain better before letting players towards random outcomes that might ruin their otherwise well thought out runs.

One such instance is the astronauts and their stat allocation, which can sometimes end up causing unexpected results that might lead players toward having to rearrange their in-game budget or start a fresh run.


In conclusion

Astronaut The Best is a fantastic game that combines roguelike and visual novel genres to deliver a unique gameplay experience. While the complexity of the game's many decision-making and management systems can be a bit overwhelming for some players, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the title.

With an amazing art style, an engaging gameplay loop, and an immersive narrative, Astronaut The Best is an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a good story-based text adventure.


Astronaut The Best (Beta)

The scorecard (Image via Sportskeeda)
The scorecard (Image via Sportskeeda)

Reviewed on: Windows PC (Review copy provided by Universal Happymaker)

Platform(s): Windows PC (Steam)

Developer(s): Universal Happymaker

Publisher(s): Universal Happymaker

Release date: 2023

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Edited by Adarsh J Kumar
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