8BitBoy ReviewJoe Shaffer
Hold a button to run, press another to jump. When properly executed, you fly through the air over yards worth of obstacles and murderous birds. Bump bricks with your head to uncover surprises, nab flowers so you can launch projectiles, gather coins to obtain
an extra life a random transformation kept in a reserve box... This all sounds familiar, doesn't it? Do you have memories of grasping a certain gray-and-black controller that now feels puny in comparison to today's peripherals? Funny thing: I'm not talking about Super Mario Bros. In fact, the platformer I'm referencing is a love letter to that classic, entitled 8BitBoy.
It's okay to sign and fawn at a painstaking recreation Nintendo's game-changing hit. Hell, I did for about four or five levels. I marveled at how the developer aped the physics and worked in a variety of Mario's older staples, even using them in ways the original didn't bother to. For instance, springboards play a more important role in advancing through each stage. They often lay hidden in areas that appear to be dead ends, and require a little investigation and experimentation to reveal. Hidden nooks and crannies are also plentiful, where the original Super Mario Bros. showcased only a few. 8BitBoy is rather fond of hiding hordes of coins behind walls or placing 1-Ups in sky-high boxes.
Koopas took a hike, replaced now by a menagerie of avians. They're not much different from the koopas, though, as they sport familiar AI routines. However, 8BitBoy's bird foes are a tad more colorful, not to mention decked out with tiny details such as peculiar sparkles or cybernetic parts. Sadly, they're about the only creature type encounter on your quest. Sure, there are plenty of bats, snakes and bugs, but let's face it: those are all stock enemies. Where's the originality? Where are the standout features that a good clone needs?
Honestly, I'm not going to dock 8BitBoy points for refusing to step out of Mario's shadow. However, I am going to pick at one glaring wound: repetition. You see, there's not much to 8BitBoy. If you've played through the first five stages of world one, you've pretty much experienced the game (sans boss encounters). You charge from one end to another, negotiate standard moving platforms, tight spaces, beds of spikes, lakes of lava and/or lofty leaps to the point of tedium. The game's difficulty rating jumps slightly, but not noticeably.
The same sights go whirring by as you advance. Hilly backgrounds you've seen before change color with each world. Dingy dungeons also reject any sense of alteration or sprucing. Worse, it's a repetitive cycle. You embark on your mission whilst outside, enter a fortress, exit the structure to glimpse commonplace scenery, and then reenter another vault that's more of the same, visually speaking.
I'm also struggling to conjure glorious memories of my playthrough. All I recall are the times 8BitBoy failed me. Its wonky physics stand out the most, especially the game's slightly delayed jump function. I can't count the number of times I've plummeted to my death despite having pressed the button timely enough. It's especially aggravating when conveyor belts pop up, as you don't get much wiggle room when working with these puppies. They immediately blast you across the screen, and if your thumb is a fraction of a second too slow when pressing 'jump,' you'll end up in a fiery pond or impaled on a spike. Some stages even have a few conveyors with spacious gaps between them, begging you to properly leap from one belt and hit another to maintain momentum. That's assuming you're able to press the 'jump' button before the contraption flings you into a pit.
I cursed myself hoarse when fighting the final boss, too. When the boss shifted his strategy after each successful blow, the protagonist inexplicably declined to move. He'd stomp an inch to the left, a centimeter to the right, and only move side to side, as if he were mired in knee-deep molasses. Meanwhile, the mechanical bird got in a few cheap shots on me, almost driving me to rage quit before the grand finale.
Finally, you reach the ultimate chamber and a fairy lets you know that you cannot see the game's ending unless you've collected all of the special coins. All fifty of them, that is... Had 8BitBoy have been an exciting piece of faux-retro goodness, I would have gladly jumped back into the fray to locate the missing coins. However, 8BitBoy is a dull, albeit sometimes decent remembrance of Super Mario Bros.. It's not a great game by any stretch, but it gets the job done if you play it in small doses. It's a modest platformer, to be sure, but we're living in a world where modesty in that genre is tantamount to mediocrity.
Besides, if you really want a good game that mimics Super Mario Bros., I recommend Daemon Detective Gaiden.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.