A plausibly semi-biographical introduction tells us of a man looking for more in life, looking for art, for creation, for meaning. No more part-time jobs and unfinished dreams. Keyboard choral vocals and a piano score ramps up the sentimentally. He dreams back on greater days and a trusty old companion. That friend now lies packed away in the basement. An 8-bit console of wonder unpacked. A magical cartridge discovered, it’s artwork reminiscent of Sega’s Master System.
Then boom! A holy white light beams from the dusty machine and transports us into an 8-bit world. 8-Bit Boy is a Chrome browser title recreating a simplistic platformer of yesteryear. With two difficulty levels, Retro mode was selected and the adventure began. In this harder setting secret coins must be found that will then autosave your current progress.
“ Distinctly Nintendo influenced”Upon first taking on the world and its creatures the frame rate would take a dramatic dip whenever defeating a monster or using a jump pad. This was particularly painful when attempting to make a jump at the same time as defeating an enemy. By adjusting the zoom in Chrome the performance was improved.
Restarting the game again in Kiddy Mode – I’ll take a patronising title over banging my head off of the desk – where it autosaves each level and grants more time to explore, this chubby man-sprite started his leaps over deadly water and onto the bonces of fat birds once more. Jumping on enemies, blocks that turn to boxes containing coins, secret locations, disappearing platforms, deadly water, chirpy audio, fire power-ups, and worlds to explore. This is distinctly Nintendo influenced.
Upon reaching the second world there was some anticipation in how the unoriginal lands of the first would be cast aside for something more radical. The first enemy was another bird, and many of the others returned. It was too obvious a reskin in sand brown. This didn’t feel like a new world worth fighting through. Using older titles as a complete template without revision inherits their negative elements too. The respawn and game over speeds now feel anarchic, the animations simplistic and lacking charm, and the power of nostalgia is borrowed from those it mimics, rather than that of its own.
“No-frills retro platformer”From the time my eyes first opened video games have been around me and there’s no denying memories of Alex Kidd and Mario had me forgive much of 8-Bit Boy‘s weakness and continue to plough through past the usual point of calling. Mediocre in execution, and perhaps willingly so, there are other retro-influenced titles out there doing some new with the formula.
And this is part of the struggle. As a Mario clone, Awesome Blade has set itself a rather high watermark to achieve. The mechanics and level design certainly aren’t as tight, and there’s nothing new added. That doesn’t completely rule out 8-Bit Boy, however, and if you’re looking for a straight-up no-frills retro platformer then you’ll find comfort in this. Otherwise you’ll undoubtedly become frustrated in how straight this is.