Astronut is produced by the same company responsible for Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy, although it's not billed in any way as a sequel to Matthew Smith's games. Written by Patrick Richmond, the game is attractive and colourful - but as a 'platform' game, I'm sure Software Projects are hoping that their reputation for this type of package will help this one on its way to the high street shelves.
The lack of instructions both on the cassette sleeve and on-screen (at least with the copy I've got anyway), didn't actually inspire any confidence that it was a particularly polished piece of software. To start the game, you need to press the 'S' key - and the 'Q' key is used to turn off the terrible sound effect (you'll find this is probably the most useful key in the whole game!)
Astronut's a game of some 15 screens; the object of the exercise on each screen is to push three resource blocks from various platforms down to ground level. You control the little two-cursor man and can move him left or right, or get him to drop bombs. To move the figure up the screen, you have to position him above a volcano and wait for it to erupt or, on the later screens, you can manoeuvre the figure up the ladders. Beware though, once you've started to climb there's no turning back.
Stopping you gathering the power capsules and moving the resource blocks are, of course, many assorted meanies which have to be negotiated. There's also the problem of extending platforms, which have an annoying habit of collapsing just when you want to use them!
The sprites move fairly smoothly by one or two pixels and come in the usual horizontally and vertically moving varieties; some are even more tricky and cascade back and forth along the platforms, defying gravity more often then not. The stationary graphics characters aren't your average run-of-the-mill platforms either - you may encounter dragons spitting fire and amazing castle towers - and they certainly go some way to brightening up the game.
Despite the pixel movement of the sprites, our man moves by cursor block stages, although the figure is animated within each stage. Unfortunately, this, coupled with the 'attribute collision detection' routine used, sometimes causes your figure to be pronounced dead even when there's lots of clear air between you and your killer.
Astronut is visually appealing, but it's too easy! Dropping bombs to protect yourself and timing the jumps to collapsing platforms do add an element of skill, but overall I didn't find it challenging enough. Each of the screens can be reached independently of the others by instructing the program to start on a specific screen - in my view, this spoils any suspence for the enthusiast.
Astronut can set the odd bomb in the path of any nasties following - it'll stop 'em for a while but don't expect miracles!
The next resource block is already in position once the first block has been placed in the flashing area designated for it. The idea is to get one side of the block and give it a gentle nudge in the direction you want it to fall.
Astronut nudges the first resource block into place. You have to move three of these blocks into place to get n to the next level - unless, of course, you've chosen to start on the last level first, that is!
This is a pulse generator - which sends out deadly beams of energy to stop Astronut journeying round the screen.
The staircases provide a way of getting to the upper levels - trouble is that once you've started the climb there's no turning back... so make sure your path is clear before you begin.
An alternative method of gaining access to the upper levels is to stop on one of the volcanoes and wait. When it blows, you get shot up to the first level above, whether it be a collapsible platform or a firm pathway.
You'll know where to nudge the resource blocks on each screen as an area of the bottom of the screen will flash on and off until it's filled.
You can fall as far as you like in Astronut without coming to grief. Trouble is, falling can sometimes land you in more trouble than you bargained for...Some of the platforms comprise some very interesting graphics - take this tree for example. The graphics in Astronut are certainly a sight for sore eyes.
Watch out for the moving platforms. One minute there nice and safe... the next, they've completely vanished and you've nowhere to go but down!
The line at the very top of the screen is incremented and filled in as time porgresses. Needless to say, you've to complete your task on-screen before the time's up... otherwise it's back to the beginning of the screen.