Update: It appears that the developer has been improving the game since I played it and wrote this review. The game available now may be better than the version I played but the score will remain the same as I can only judge from my experience at the time.

Here’s a situation, just a hypothetical, that I’d like you to consider. A friend starts telling you an anecdote and it’s pretty interesting during the setup. Then you realise that the story’s actually made up of a couple of other anecdotes some of your other friends already told you a while ago. You remember that, actually, those friends told their anecdotes quite a bit better than this friend. Besides, this new anecdote has some glaring inconsistencies which must have crept in during the mash up.

In a completely unrelated note, let’s talk about 8BitBoy.

The game is a platformer which trades on the nostalgia factor due to its set-up of a deadbeat gamer being turned into a video game protagonist via a magical SNES game cartridge. It’s an interesting enough conceit, but in this case there is one glaring problem: absolutely nothing has been done with it. The chief ‘influence’ is obviously Super Mario Bros.: breakable blocks, fireball upgrades and castles at the end of levels. The only real differences are the larger levels which allow for a modicum of exploration, fireballs with a slightly more advanced collision engine, allowing you to bounce them around a bit more, and some enemies which use trickery to catch you off guard (an inconsistency which I will deal with later).

The problem is that this blatant aping of the Mario franchise doesn’t help 8BitBoy whatsoever. It just makes those few things which are good about the game feel incredibly derivative, as well as the huge issue that Super Mario Bros. is a much better game. Amazingly SMB has a far better control scheme than a game developed almost thirty years later. In 8BitBoy every movement you make causes a weird momentum which causes you avatar to slide around in the most imprecise of ways, it gives the whole game the feeling of playing through thick treacle and has resulted in many, many pointless plummets from platforms.

The soggy controls would be more forgivable if the game itself were a little more forgiving. Unfortunately the next game it seems to have been ‘influenced’ by is I Wanna Be The Guy. Enemy behaviour is inconsistent – chiefly the bats, whose main attack is dropping on the player… except for a few which don’t drop. As well as enemies which hide and leap out at you – cactus enemies hide in front of cactuses in the background and can’t be killed until they activate, even if you notice they’re there beforehand.

Aaaaaaaaaaaarggh

Aaaaaaaaaaaarggh

The horrible difficulty would be more acceptable if it weren’t for the huge wait times caused by both level design and the way player deaths are managed. A game over causes you to be kicked back the the main menu, delaying your ability to get back into the game – an issue which has now been changed to a menu giving you the option to retry, but it hasn’t sped things up all that much. There are also some terrible level design choices – a particularly noteworthy offender is a sand trap at the start of 2-4 which forces you to wait about ten seconds for it to rise and fall right at the start of the level. It doesn’t sound like much on its own but combine it with a jumping sequence rendered ridiculously difficult by imprecise controls and that wait becomes a little grating after the eighth time.

It’s this issue which finally broke me and I only played the game up to level 2-4. If there is a sudden revelation and the mechanics change for the better in a masterstroke of misdirection then I will have missed it. If that’s the case, then I throw my hands up and say “my bad”. However the inconsistent game mechanics, sloppy controls and frustrating level design conspired to make the game an unrelenting grind.

I would rather eat my controller than continue to play this game.

If you want to see me playing this game through and hear me talk about a lot of the issues as they became apparent, then take a look at the video below. It was my first time playing the game, all the reactions are real-time and might help augment the opinions I’ve put forward in the written review. Not quite a video review and not quite a Let’s Play. I’m going to call it a Review Play.

Review: 8BitBoy
Although the game runs fine and looks nice enough, almost every design choice is either irritating or derivative.
Pros
  • It didn't crash
  • Some of the enemies are kinda cute
  • It appears the dev is improving the game with frequent updates
Cons
  • Imprecise controls
  • Frustrating level design
  • It's less well-made Mario game
3Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

Contributor

Ben is pretty damned nerdy. If he isn't playing video games, then he's probably rolling some dice to hit goblins and thugs or designing, running and crewing a host of LARP systems. He lives in Brighton, because it's nice there. You can follow him on twitter @benrlmeredith

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