May 29, 2014
The game takes place through the eyes of a 32-year old man who is trying to kindle some sense of nostalgia from his childhood by firing up an old gaming system. He hopes to remember the days when he didn’t have to worry about a job or a mortgage, but his hopes are somewhat dashed as he ends up being sucked into the console.
Everything in his new platforming environment is made up of simple shapes and colours which are rather easy on the eye. As you play through, backgrounds are mostly static and there are also occasional effects that appear such as rain – it helps to add some liveliness to the various scenes you will encounter.
As you play through, there are a few custscenes that are done much like the ones from the NES era. This means there’s very little movement, but there’s a lot of text used to narrate the story and let the player know what’s troubling our protagonist. It’s not ground-breaking, but it is in keeping with the setting the developers were going for.
Gameplay is very similar to classic platforming titles such as Mario. Everything is 2D and there are several worlds to play through, each with multiple levels. As you go through the levels, you can collect coins, jump on enemies and of course, try to get to the end of the level within the designated time limit. Perhaps the surprising element here is that while platformers of that era often had time as an afterthought, in 8-Bit Boy, getting to the end of levels within the allotted time isn’t a cake walk. It presents a welcome challenge and adds an extra dimension to proceedings, besides the evil forest creatures and traps such as spikes, unending drops and deadly pools of water.
It all sounds good up until this point, but after a few levels the game just stops being all that fun. You will use the arrow keys or a gamepad to control the majority of movement, but the game is frustrating to play on a keyword. Platforming isn’t anywhere near as solid as games such as Mega Man or Ninja Gaiden and it means that sometimes even landing on small platforms can be cumbersome. It also isn’t helped by the fact the game has so many possibilities for a cheap death. Even if a puddle of water is only knee high, it will kill you instantly – it seems rather silly really. Don’t be surprised if you lose all of your lives within three minutes of the game.
As hinted, this game is a pretty shameless Mario clone. Hitting blocks, jumping on enemies, and power-ups are near identical to the plumber’s titles minus a couple of variations. It’s common for indie games to take inspiration from older games or even make inside jokes about them, but 8-Bit Hero doesn’t really achieve this at all and ends up being more of a clone than anything else. This would not be too bad if the game was actually fun to play, but unlike the original Mario titles, it isn’t. As mentioned before, platforming can be absolutely infuriating at times and it leads to a rather sour experience.
Perhaps one saving grace is the music, which is reminiscent of classics such as Donkey Kong Country, but it does little to salvage the rest of the game.
8-Bit Boy is quite a shameless clone of the original Mario titles, but it fails to deliver the same fun experience that Nintendo created way back when. The introduction of time as a defining factor is nice, but there’s no discernible reward for the game’s annoyingly cheap difficulty and it just leads to frustration. 8-Bit Boy is a game that should be avoided.