Astro Boy, despite not being very well known in the UK, is an icon of anime across the globe and Omega Factor is a game which more then lives up to that iconic status. Since its release it has gained Astro Boy more UK fans then ever before, even more so then BBC One's short-lived showing of the latest Astro Boy anime series.
Omega Factor is a 2D scrolling beat 'em up in which you play the role of Astro Boy and take on hordes of fiendish robots intend on taking over the world. Each of the eight levels involves fighting your way through these enemies until you reach the boss and uncover several cut-scenes which move the anime-faithful plot forward until the final confrontation. Each of the characters you meet along the way will be added to the 'Omega Factor' and increase Astro's learning of human nature.
Astro's abilities in the game are more varied then I expected. He can punch, kick, fly in any direction and use his famous special moves - laser beam and arse machine gun. These attacks can also be upgraded through a points system in which the player chooses which of Astro's abilities is to be upgraded. The control system is blissfully simple to - the main A & B buttons are used to punch, kick and fly while the shoulder buttons are used for the special attacks. This allows for uncomplicated action throughout and - given the amount of enemies that can appear on screen at any given time - the control system proves essential.
Although Omega Factor may sound and look similar to any other 2D actioner, it is in fact streets ahead due to the fact that it has been co-developed by the masters of action Treasure who developed such classics as Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga. Omega Factor is more similar to the latter of these examples due mainly to it's learning curve which eases the player into the action through the 'easy' mode, which allows for an increased number of special attacks which are strictly limited when playing on 'normal' mode. Also Omega Factor allows for further gameplay by uncovering extra areas through playing through a saved completed game, adding to it's longevity. The 'normal' is certainly no walk in the park either, it is very tough and by the inclusion of the easy mode Omega Factor can be straightforward fun or straightforward difficult fun -its your choice.
Omega Factor also perfectly captures the look of the anime with it's bright visuals and gloriously detailed backdrops which represent several of the well-known scenarios from the original Astro Boy. Although the character sprites are pixellated around the edges, this would seem to be a necessary sacrifice to allow for the sheer number of enemies that can appear on screen if it were not for the slow-down that occurs when those enemies do show up! Although the game is still playable when this happens I did find it annoying and left myself wondering why this was as this doesn't occur on similar Game Boy Advance games.
Despite the small gripe of slow-down though, Omega Factor is still an essential title due the sheer gameplay it offers that will still have you playing it if you manage to complete 'normal' mode (its hard!). After that you can challenge yourself to the blisteringly difficult 'hard' mode and then attempt to beat your score. The endless gameplay Omega Factor offers means that it will appeal to fans and those unaware of Astro Boy. Many shops and websites now sell Omega Factor for just £9.99 as well now, how can you not refuse?
As well as featuring several cameos from other Osamu Tezuka
(the creator of Astro Boy) throughout he game (which are compiled into a
character list as you meet them), Omega Factor also features a high score
record, sound test and stage select once you beat the game.