Like any good puzzle game, Astropop sucks your time into a vacuum vortex, never to be seen again. The best part about this is that it's not time that you'll want to get back. Astropop is another of Xbox Live Arcade's terrific casual gaming offerings that's relatively cheap ($5), offers loads of gameplay depth, is easy to understand from the outset, and looks smashingly good. Whether you've been on the fence about Live Arcade games, or you've just played so much Geometry Wars that you see exploding pixels in your sleep, Astropop is a fun and challenging game that you're sure to enjoy.
Something borrowed, something blue
(and yellow and green and red...)
Astropop borrows gratuitously from seemingly dozens of puzzle games. Instead of feeling like an imitator, though, you're left with the impression that it simply takes the best of many selections and puts them together in a single package. Among many others, it's a combination of Arkanow, Tetris, and Breakout, with a little Space Invaders thrown in for good measure. There's even an attempt at some semblance of a story, which is not linked to the enjoyment factor of the game but ostensibly gives you some sort of reason for blowing up thousands of colorful bricks…not that you really needed one anyway.
At its core, there are two modes that share the same kind of gameplay. The first is called Classic (a strange name considering that it's a brand new game) and the second is termed Survival. "Classic" starts off by letting you choose one of two available characters, with another two unlockable folks being dangled in front of you as a futuristic carrot of sorts. Your job (regardless of the avatar of choice) is to blast through various series of falling blocks via coordination of four or more of the same color. Basically, you grab some blocks from the group at the top, combine them together by color, and throw them back, making as many of them explode as possible to eventually clear the board and level up. The goal is to clear a certain amount of blocks without having your ship crushed by the falling rectangles and do so as quickly and stylishly as possible. Planning your strategy based upon the layout of the blocks - for those of you who think quickly and press buttons even faster - allows multiple combinations to be executed, scoring bigger points and clearing levels more rapidly.
Naturally, there are all sorts of things to help and hinder you along the way. Once the blocks enter the lower levels of the board and maneuverability becomes impossible, you have the option to blast away at them using character-specific cannon. This will help you get out of sticky situations for sure, and can even be upgraded for your plasma-death-ray pleasure. Other levels feature power-up style blocks that you can use to increase your rectangular destruction. On the obstacle side, there are various special bricks - some impenetrable, others poisonous, that can make it a royal pain to clear out particular areas.