It’s weird how certain game genres were really prolific back in the day, but then later just faded into obscurity. Run ‘n’ Guns, 3D Collectathons, Survival Horror, and Rails Shooters (amongst others) were all immensely popular back in their heyday, but one day they fell out of favour. Some of those genres have made a resurgence in recent years, whereas others just haven’t.

Despite their scarcity though, some indie developers try to keep those genres alive; one such developer is Dynamic Media Triad, who released Astro Dogs two years ago in an attempt to recapture that rail shooter experience. We had a few gripes with the initial version, but that wasn’t enough to stop us from giving it a near perfect score.

But now the developer has dropped a brand spanking new update that brings a whole new level of polish to the experience, adding in voice acting, rumble support, rebalancing, and much more. With such a massive overhaul, we decided it was time to remaster our original review to reflect these updates.

Many thanks to Dynamic Media Triad for the review code.

The galaxy is at peace, and so are the Astrodogs team who are having a nap like good little doggies. At least, they were until the ship’s sirens suddenly started blaring. It turns out that the mega corporation WOOFER has started attacking planets all over the solar system. It’s up to you, as the main pilot of Astrodogs, to man (or rather, dog) the legendary Red Paw and put an end to all this trouble. 

It’s a simple setup, but what the game lacks in narrative, it more than makes up for with its charm. Right from the opening, you can tell that a lot of love has been poured into this game. The cartoonish visuals are gorgeous to behold, and everything has a humorous and almost meme-like charm to it. The WOOFER team all have their own personalities, and now with the added voice acting you can appreciate all of the glorious dog puns that they throw your way. It adds a whole extra degree of depth to the characters and makes you appreciate their existence far more than in the original version of the game.


The beautiful visuals only get more impressive once the action starts. There are eleven unique worlds, including the tutorial and two unlockable levels, and every single one is absolutely stunning. From lush jungles to cyberspace, there’s a lot of visual variety and it’s all wonderful to look at. Even the main menu, whilst still a little clunky to navigate with the newly added (albeit sluggish) mouse pointer, has some stunning cartoonish visuals for you to gawp over. The visuals aren’t even my favourite part of the presentation either, as the soundtrack takes centre stage and contains some real bangers that will get lodged into your subconscious. The Very Satellite music, which consists of dogs yapping the main melody, was a particular highlight – but in truth, I loved them all.

Whilst the visuals are enough to make you fall in love with the game, the most important thing for a rails shooter to get right is the controls, and thankfully it plays almost as well as it looks. For those unfamiliar with the genre, you control a ship as it flies along a set path through the level. Control of your ship is limited to the X and Y axis, enabling you to avoid incoming fire and shoot at any enemies that come your way. The Red Paw is fast and responsive, although it does lack the ability to speed up and brake, which can make it difficult to take out some enemies when they get up in your face. This is alleviated somewhat by a pseudo-bullet time ability that can be used after collecting energy dropped by defeating enemies. This ability allows you to slow down time and use the gyro controls (or just the stick if you’re boring) to aim around you and take out your foes with ease. The gyro works incredibly well, and I found it extremely fun to use once I got to grips with it. There’s another meter that also seems to fill in a similar way, except this one is for your special weapons. These systems work quite well as you can effectively use one of them whilst the other recharges. Failing that, you have your primary attack as well as the obligatory barrel roll that can deflect bullets back at the enemy. In theory, the barrel roll is quite simple and forgiving to use, but when there are a million bullets coming your way, it’s not exactly something you should really rely on.

Each level has its own theming, which allows for certain unique gimmicks to be used as obstacles to bypass. The prison stage has security lasers that will try and fry you, whereas the jungle sees you flying into an underwater cave that you need to navigate. It’s always exciting to see what the next level has in store for you, and there’s not a stinker among them. Whilst there’s plenty of variety in the levels themselves, the enemy ships you’ll face will be pretty much the same. Different, more difficult, units do appear as you progress through the story, but they’re never thematically linked to the level you are playing. Most enemies are pretty neat, although some are bullet sponges that are best avoided – unless you’re going for a high score, of course. There are a lot of enemies, and you will find the game tough at first until you get used to all of the mechanics of the game, but thankfully there are rings scattered around which restore your health. If you play defensively and hit all of these, you should be able to make it through to the end in one piece.


Where the combat really shines though is with the boss levels. These types of games tend to have massive jaw-dropping boss fights, and Astrodogs is no exception. From huge squidlike beasts to a big ball of …. stuff(?), they’re both challenging and interesting. The game really tries to make some unique boss fights and most of them are a joy to fight (more on that later). The later boss fights feel more like puzzles rather than the usual bullet sponges, which forces you to figure out how to attack them rather than simply outsurviving them. The game graciously places a checkpoint before each boss too, so there’s no real pressure when encountering one of these behemoths for the first time. If you die, the checkpoint will even restore your health to full, but your score will be reset to zero.

You’ll likely find that beating each level will award you with a pretty low grade after your first attempt, especially if you die at the boss, so you’ll probably want to go  through the levels again after beating the game in order to improve your score. Getting A ranks will reward you with bonus ships for you to pilot, including one that resembles an X-Wing for those Star Wars fans out there! For the very best, there’s also a special reward for anyone who can get S Ranks in everything. Bear in mind that even getting A ranks are extremely hard, so don’t expect to be unlocking any of them without some serious effort. As for those unlockable stages that I mentioned earlier, getting all A ranks will grant you access – or you can ‘simply’ do a deathless run of the game. Regardless of your choice, you’ll certainly need to practice! 

For those with fewer skills but more perseverance, you can visit the gallery area and speak to the cat there to unlock some new paint jobs, or even purchase some extra lore for you to read up on. These are unlocked by spending the coins you earn on each level. It’s a nice way of adding some extra replay value, especially considering these types of game aren’t particularly long. They’re designed for replaying rather than a one-and-done playthrough, so this is a good way to encourage people to keep playing, even after the credits roll.


One of the issues that I had wiith the original version of the game was with the shoddy tutorial that failed to teach you all that much about how the game works. Thankfully, this has been improved quite a fair bit in the updated version, even if it’s still not perfect. Now, the game actually gives you time to actually use your special weapons and explains how most of them work. The laser attack is still curiously unexplained, which is odd given that it’s probably the most obscure weapon, but the rest are made clear. It’s a shame that the laser still remains unexplained, as its penetration properties can prove pretty useful under the right circumstances. 

The real thing that will be a deal-breaker to many gamers though is the game’s difficulty. Astrodogs is a hard game – and I say that as a veteran of both the Panzer Dragoon and Star Fox titles. Getting used to how the game plays certainly helps, but there’s still no denying that this game is made for the hardcore rail-shooter enthusiast. Seasoned players like myself will probably find the game tough, but beatable; however, I can see many newcomers getting turned off by how brutal the game can be at times. There has been balancing to make it fairer than it used to be, but I honestly think that it probably could have done with an easier setting to make it slightly more accessible for people who don’t have experience with the genre – which is probably a lot of people these days. Whilst I didn’t have too much of an issue with the game once I got used to the combat, I can imagine that a lot of people will.

There are also some visual issues too that can be make the game more challenging too. The dynamic camera looks very cinematic, but sometimes it can make it hard to judge where enemies and obstacles actually are. Usually dodging objects is quite lenient, but when the camera is trying to be fancy then you can find yourself getting smacked in the face unintentionally by something you’re trying to go around. 


Star Fox fans rejoice! Astrodogs is that new canine-centric game you’re looking for! It may be too tough for anyone who isn’t a grizzled veteran of the genre, and there are certainly are some small nitpicks, but it’s still a fantastic rails shooter that I absolutely fell in love with. For those seeking reasons to replay, there are plenty of unlockables for those who have what it takes. If you haven’t played the game already, now is the perfect time to do so!