8BitBoy is a 2D platformer that falls between slow fun and challenging with pinpoint jumps. While its obvious that it takes a lot from Mario games, 8BitBoy has its own flavor and style. It looks and plays like your typical Super Mario game. To be more specific, Super Mario Bros 1 or even Super Mario Land because of its power ups. There are four tiers of power ups. You’ll first get a shield power up, that only allows you to take an extra hit. Then you’ll get a bouncing red ball projectile, not like Mario’s fireball, but like a bouncing ball. Its a nice dynamic weapon. The next tier is a double green fireball that goes faster and finally a fire version as the final tier.
The enemies feel good and there is a lot of diversity, even if they are color swapped birds for the most part. Blue birds take two hits, green birds fall off platforms, black birds throw snowballs, pink birds shoot arrows. There are fish that jump out of water pits. Most of them can get taken out with head stomps ala Mario. When you bounce on an enemy it is an auto jump instead of being able to hold the jump button as a jump. That auto jump feels problematic especially when platforms are so small. I’ve learned to not jump on enemies with other enemies flying over them. Auto jump will get you killed.
Each level is pretty open and seems big enough. You’re able to explore and find hidden blocks, and passageways that go through walls. The secret areas feel nice and are usually found pushing up against walls. You’ll go up, down, left and right, but never fly or swim. Each level goes to the next. You will never have a choice. It just seems lacking when compared to Mario when that’s what the developer took inspiration from. The levels go in succession with no level map, just a world map with all 5 of the worlds, each having 10+ levels. These aren’t worlds so much as levels. Levels going in succession without being able to select them just feels like a chore having to go through 10 levels to a boss. Its like Super Mario 1 or 2, and less like Mario 3 or Mario World, being able to move around a world and land. When you start each level it tells you level 1-2 world 1. Wouldn’t the 1 in level 1-2 imply that you’re at world 1?
The controls are easy, and the developer has listened to feedback. There’s a run / attack button, a jump button and a use item button. After listening to feedback, the attack and run buttons have gotten merged together. It just felt awkward having them as separate buttons. The stopping can be slippery. Without running, 8-Bit Boy just feels slow. When you get 100 coins, you earn a random item to use when you want to. That keeps the game going. If you die and need a quick power-up, just use that. You don’t even need to catch it. You’ll just have it.
The game is difficult, but forgiving, especially on the standard difficulty. When you get a game over, you’ll restart the level from the last save point. So if you started level 1-2 with 2 lives and fireballs, then die twice, you’ll get a game over. Then you restart with those 2 lives and fireballs again. Retro difficulty will only save when you find hidden save coins. I think restarting a level from a save point is just a way to compensate for how difficult the game is and how few extra lives you’ll find. Even when you complete the world, and lose all your lives, you still restart with the lives you had entering the world. So you’re almost stuck with 1 last life all throughout the entire game. Imagine getting a game over screen each time you die and having the wait to reload the level. Not just that, but use your analog stick as a mouse pointer to click reload game. You’re able to use a 360 controller, but the menus turn your analog stick into the mouse cursor. It just feels inefficient, when I could just press a button to play again. Then after that, you need to wait for the game to tell you level 2-4 world 2, before you can move. Super Meat Boy at least throws you right back into the action.
It is only difficult for constant jumps over death pits that you’ll need to land on one block platforms over and over again. If you miss, its death. In the desert, enemies will jump out of the background with no warning other than remembering where they are. This is especially problematic when there are jumps that need you to hit this background jumping enemies.
For a game called 8-Bit Boy, it didn’t feel 8-Bit. The introduction cut scenes don’t look 8-Bit either. The resolution is too high for the images. While the game felt like Mario, it didn’t feel 8-Bit.
Another problem I have with this game is screen control. There are some blind jumps due to the screen being stuck to show 3/5s to the right of the character and 2/5ths to the left of the character. Each level can be a maze, which is a good thing, but it makes you blind to the left side, if not blind drops down to platforms. Using the L and R buttons to scroll the screen would have been helpful. Boss fights that use only one screen don’t lock the screen to the boss’s room. So you can be blind to where the fast moving bosses are.
Water is deadly too, even one block high water when your character is two blocks high and looks like his head would be above water. These are issues that the developer has told me on the forum that will get fixed in the sequel.
The reloading saves via mouse after every death is an issue, when five lives could be easily granted after using a continue. Pinpoint jumps aren’t fun, but really its how slow 8BitBoy moves. There is a run button, but I just think the game could be more fun than it currently is. All of the levels feel the same, even if they’re different. There are no new elements added to them except maybe conveyer belts in the fourth world. In the end, there are better games out there even if the game has some fun. It just pales in comparison to the game it tries so hard to be.