Imagine Mario, but on a much harder scale, with secrets so well hidden that you’re left wanting to pull your hair out as you continue onto the next level in a blind fit of rage, and you’ve got 8BitBoy.
Developed by AwesomeBlade in 2014, this challenging side-scroller pays homage to its retro inspirations such as Super Mario Bros. Sonic and more. The story follows a games developer who is a little down on his luck who discovers his retro games collection, and while trifling through his old games, comes across a cartridge with a blank label that is in pristine condition with no case. Out of curiosity he puts the unknown game into his console and is whisked into a new world, but the only way to escape is to beat it.
In true SMB style you’re faced with a number of worlds that are packed with a multitude of levels that are stuffed full of power-ups, enemies, coins, and secrets. From left to right you must traverse the blocky landscape, making sure to attack or dodge any enemies that will appear in your path, collect any coins and power-ups you may find and make it safely to the end of the level.
The game’s style is what you would expect from a game that is paying its respects to its creators favourite childhood games. 8-bit style graphics, platform gameplay, and a quirky 8-bit soundtrack to accompany you as you progress really do insight a feeling of nostalgia, that is if you happened to play the old retro consoles as a kid.
The selection of enemies is quite vast and slightly reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog as they all appear to be animals, although they’re not robotic, they just seem to have a bug up their ass and have it out for the character who has rudely trespassed into their lands, some bosses however are robotic, supersized, and extremely pissed off, possibly at the fact that you’ve jumped on their children’s heads, or thrown a colourful ball of power at them.
The levels can be extremely fun to make your way through, and discovering secrets can be mixture of super easy, to a super hard strategy that can cause you to grit your teeth, but contribute to the enjoyment and leave you feeling rewarded, in most cases that is.
The soundtrack to 8BitBoy is again a nice throwback to the days of old, but is noticeably recycled throughout the game, and is more enjoyed when playing for the first time. That being said, the soundtrack isn’t bad, but can be a little monotonous when playing for extended periods of time. Regardless of its monotony it still sticks to how the game would be if it actually was from the era it is trying to portray, so for this I gave kudos to AwesomeBlade.
8BitBoy has had a mixed reception from players and reviewers recently, but is mostly positive overall, according to Steam. Most negative reviews are based solely on the fact that it is too similar to its retro counterparts, which is arguably an opinion forged from a lack of connection to the game and its inspirations. Most positive reviews praise 8BitBoy for its challenging levels, fun gameplay and the very thing it is set out to do, instil a sense a nostalgia within the player.
I personally really enjoyed 8BitBoy and continue to enjoy it even now, over two years after its release. It doesn’t get boring, keeps you searching through levels for hidden secrets, and its ability to make you want to rage-quit at time, capped off with the loving feeling of nostalgia. 8BitBoy is a perfect example of a game that is inspired by the past, and with a slightly different storyline, could’ve done well back in the day.
I honestly recommend this game to anyone who grew up with a NES or Sega Master System as it will take you right back to the days where you’d be sat before a small CRT television, stacks of cartridges strewn in front of you as you untangle the cord for your controller. If you didn’t grow up in the good old days, then I still recommend this game as it is fun, definitely good for passing time and for the price it is worth every penny.
8BitBoy is currently £2.79 on Steam.