Astrologaster – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Nyamyam
Published By: Plug In Digital
Category: Narrative Comedy
Release Date: February 18, 2021
Your initial impression of Astrologastor upon starting a new game may cause a grin to appear across your face. A silly Monty Python style ballad is sung to you by a choir which sets the scene of this narrative comedy game from UK developers Nyamyam and French publisher Plug In Digital.
Set in 1592 England, the plague has swept through London with many doctors fleeing in an attempt to escape the same fate. Astrologaster retells this period of history and bases it around the true story of the unlicensed doctor Simon Forman who you play. He stays behind to help the afflicted but also because he is too sick to flee himself.
For your first task you decide to look to astrology to help find a cure for a patient suffering from the plague. With the help of astrology you diagnose patients’ issues, medical or otherwise. Each case you work on has you listening to your patients and their troubles and working out which star sign best represents the symptoms described. You choose the star sign which you think best describes the patient’s condition and they will either accept or deny your diagnosis.
If they like your diagnosis they will let you know and you’ll be awarded a score out of 100. Patients will return to you multiple times for treatment, with your objective to reach a score of 100 for each patient. If what you have suggested is not what they wanted to hear they will not hesitate in letting you know, and you won’t be awarded any points. Sometimes you’ll lose points if you choose a certain diagnosis. Other times you may get further points during your next appointment with a patient if they are pleased about something that’s happened following a previous diagnosis. You experiment with different potential cures for each ailment brought forward to you by patients and each are logged as cases with brief notes which you can refer back to for each patient.
Some patients are more difficult than others to diagnose. Clues are to be found in what they tell you and with this being based on real history there may be things you can work out. Some diagnoses you give to certain patients will affect your relationship with them and influence some other patients at further appointments. Such as one man who comes to you for investment advice who will let you know if it was sound or not, as well as his wife who it also affects and who also becomes a patient of yours. The way your choices with one patient can impact multiple patients is quite impressive.
The script and story are the core of any narrative game worth their salt, and Astrologaster doesn’t disappoint. Taking a real story and people from the time and weaving them into its narrative in a comedic way has a certain bravery to it which is to be commended. The script spoken by characters in an olde English style is witty and contemporary with internet memes occasionally popping up. Scenes are well voice acted and evoke British comedy greats such as Blackadder and Monty Python with easter eggs in the script and characters that are nice nods to these classic comedies.
Music feels suitably authentic to its time period with lute and organ music and choir singing featuring predominantly. Astrologaster has a lovely hand drawn pop up book art style. There’s even a page turn animation when going from scene to scene. Characters stand while conversing with marionette-like movements which are simple but have a certain charm.
But unfortunately the strength of its storytelling is not enough to carry it entirely. The core gameplay loop of speaking to patients then diagnosing them eventually becomes repetitive, despite the variety in patient case types. You get to face boss battles of sorts against the College of Physicians every so often which challenge you to put into practice what you may (or may not) have learned from the game so far. But this only deviates from the main experience momentarily every so often and isn’t enough on it’s own to provide the variety needed.
Astrologaster is a humourous retelling of real life physician Simon Foreman which draws upon some legendary comedy influences to deliver an entertaining imagining of a certain part of his life. It is put together impressively with your actions affecting the fates of your patients and the direction of the story which is that something special videogames can bring to storytelling. But it eventually out-stays its welcome when the gameplay starts to feel repetitive which is a shame as it deserves to be seen through to its conclusion. For optimal results we prescribe this to be enjoyed in moderation.