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April 25, 2014

Bit Boy (WiiWare)

Um... Nah. ...Maybe... No. I could... Uh... Meh.

There's only so little I can say about a game devoid of all creativity. This WiiWare title... is not devoid of all creativity, there was a good idea at first... but then you see how it's handled, and... Urgh. Look. Bad ideas can be done in a way that they seem fine. You can't make something amazing out of something awful, but you can still do something of very relative quality if you are careful.. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there's ideas that seem creative at first, but which are handled so damn poorly that the results are just not very good. This... fits in the second category.

This is Bit Boy. It reminds of many different things, notably Pac-Man. I'm not a Pac-Man fan, though its influence on the gaming world is undeniable. However, Pac-Man wasn't bad, it was challenging, but you had to be really persistent if you wanted to beat all 255 levels. Sadly, not all imitations are good. This one is... indeed, bad. But it's hard to describe... I'd say the best way to show how bad it is... well... it's to describe how the game goes, as usual.

I hope you enjoy this review. Took me way long to find
pics for it. I mostly got images of "Meat Boy". No, really.

Should you buy it? Or should you skip this one? We'll see.

So, we follow the story of Kubi (pronounced Kyuu-bii). He's... a cube character, not a tailed demon. He lives in the "present", but one day, a machine appears in front of him: A time machine! From it comes a little video game creature who seems to be from an old generation. As in, its resolution is lower than the one Kubi lives in, The nasty creatures (who look like the Space Invaders a little) kidnap Kubi's friends and send them through time. Willing to save his friends, the cube protagonist decides to jump on it and winds up... In the past! ...Not any past, either: The past of video games. Literally, when he comes to his senses, he finds out that he's not a cube anymore, but a square in a grid. A 4-bit grid, to be precise.

"...And he used it to participate in writing the Declaration of Independence."

One Kubi, four monsters in a small grid. Count 'em.
He finds himself in those mazes, closed spaces without any exit. Must be useful when a fire starts... Though, fire isn't the main problem: In those closed spaces, there's also boxes that contain a lot of villainous monsters. As the level begins, the monsters start coming out from the box and go around the maze. Why is it that arcade video game characters always find themselves in enclosed spaces with tons of enemies? Oh, but that's not all. If Kubi wants to go back to his time era, he has to travel through the many eras of gaming. But how?

His friends are scattered all over the levels, and Kubi has to pick them all up in order to progress to the next level. There's actually five levels for each generation, and Kubi must complete all the levels of a generation in order to unlock the next one. I guess collecting all the friends in a gaming era makes the time machine work to bring Kubi to the next era. ...Somehow. Also, as the game progresses, Kubi gains something that proves very useful: Attacks! He can defend himself now! However, his laser shots are VERY limited. You have to spare them for when you're in big trouble, as your number of shots will ALWAYS be smaller than the number of enemies there can be on the screen. If anything, I really suggest you just use them when Kubi is cornered and monsters are coming towards him in all the directions he can go.

Oh no! Kubi is cornered! ...Or rather, some of his friends are.

And... that's it for the plot. It goes on for six generations of gaming, and not much else is known of anyone in there.

And that's it. I covered most of the game in 500 words. Guess the rest will be filler, huh? Better stop there, right? Maybe I should have kept this for a Demo Review, even if this is not actually a Demo Review? I should end this now, shouldn't I?

Also of the 16-bit era: No refunds. 
No, I can't do that to you. I'll try to explain more about this game. You see, when you're at the “game” selection screen, you can pick between the six generations, which are all named after a generation of consoles in gaming, mostly the Nintendo ones. First is Bit Boy, or how the game would be in the days of Atari. When you complete that mode, you unlock Bit Boy 2, which is closer to what the Nintendo Entertainment System would give us. After which it's Super Bit Boy, which replicates the Super NES era. Next is Bit Boy 3D, which is a total switch to three-dimensional worlds. But it's not yet the Nintendo 64 era, since the next generation is called Bit Boy 64. Wait, I don't think there was something between the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo 64, so... Am I missing something? Wait, it gets more confusing: Once Bit Boy 64 is beaten, we access Bit Boy Wii???

Okay, excuse me... Did we skip the freaking GameCube generation? Oh wait, I think I get it. Bit Boy is already a cube in a game, so it was pointless to insert the GCN gen? No wait, I think I got it. Between the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo 64, 3D had started becoming commonplace for video games, as some late Super Nintendo games had 3D graphics (even if the game was actually in 2D view, such as Donkey Kong Country) and the Sega consoles at that time were also using more and more 3D graphics with their games. And then it became commonplace, if not a total necessity, for video games to be in 3D when the N64 came around. Or wait, the more plausible explanation for this odd detail in Bit Boy: The developer, Bplus, just didn't care. Yeah, I'll go for the third explanation, even if the second one has more proof.

Before you enter a generation of games in Bit Boy, you're brought to a screen that explains the details of that gaming generation. As an example, the 4-bit era claims it has “Only a hand full of colours” (and apparently no intent on correcting basic spelling mistakes), “low frame rate”, “no background music” (Oh, Joy), and “joystick control”. In other words, this is as basic a cheap Atari game as you can get. And every next generation also tells the new details that are added in this new world.

And that star, nothing new? .......Nnnnnnnnnnnope!
However, here is the major problem with the gameplay: It never really changes. Yeah, Kubi moves in four directions all the time, picking up his friends the smaller cubes and avoiding enemies. That's how it works in the first generation, and that's how it works in the last one. There's no freaking change! It gets EXTREMELY boring after a while. Sure, you get the ability to shoot the enemies once you reach the second generation, but you can shoot, at most, one enemy per level, so it doesn't make much of a change. Ooh, the animation becomes smoother, the characters get more detailed, especially the enemies (since our main character is still a cube, the simplest solid figure to draw) and the environments. But that's all there is to this! There's not much in terms of added bonuses.

Another big problem with the gameplay (there sure is a lot of them, huh?): In some cases, the mazes are poorly-designed, leading to a lot of dead ends – which Kubi will have to visit if there is one of his “friends” at the end of it. In that case, Kubi CAN get followed by an enemy who'll then block his way. You can, of course, waste an attack on the monster, but that also means you have one less bullet for the next time you're cornered. And if you get cornered too often, you'll lose all your shots. Great.

As if that was not enough, the amount of monsters to be roaming the mazes is just too big. For later levels, there can be up to twelve monsters roaming, and guess what? The mazes aren't as big as the ones in Pac-Man. Therefore, Kubi WILL get cornered pretty damn often. Again, comparing to Pac-Man: You know how there were only FOUR ghosts in very level in that one? There's a good reason. More would be too many. Well, guess what happens here. There's way too many monsters in the freaking mazes of Bit Boy, and you cannot protect your character sufficiently. This is very bad programming. Very bad choices.

Join the monster parade and get brutally killed! Come in, it's fun!

What else... what else... Oh, right. To give the full arcade game feel, you need a scoring system. Yeah, there is a score system for every generation in this game. You get points every time you pick up one of Kubi's bajillion friends, when you destroy an enemy, or when you pick up a fruit (another idea taken from Pac-Man) or another power-up. On the other hand, you will lose points if Kubi gets hit. Sounds like any normal scoring system to me. When you've completed he five levels of a world, you are brought to the score table. It's your chance to see how well you did. Of course, in order to get the highest score, you need to pick up everything in the level without losing a life. Considering how many enemies will roam the levels later on, you sometimes have to rely on dumb luck. ...Have I mentioned that I was as lucky as a man stepping on a black cat on a sidewalk crack under a ladder on Friday the 13th? Personally, I'm not a score chaser. I can't stand games that stay the same for too long, things have to change, there has to be something, an innovation, a little element that makes it better, that will bring me back to play it. I hate repetitions, I really do, I hate repetitions, I tell ya, I hate repetitions, such as this one, I hate repetitions.

Just to be clear that I hate repetitions, I say it again.

And in fact, I think this is the target public for this game: Score-chasers and arcade-nostalgic gamers. If you're not either of those, I strongly recommend you don't pay the five dollars to play this game.

It's just as I said at the beginning. The basic idea is fine: What if we were to see the main generations of gaming, all within the same game? And every world would represent an era of gaming, with the elements that represent it better, such as the quality of the graphics. However, the more it changes, the more it becomes painfully obvious that it's still the same. Yeah, the graphics get better with time, but the gameplay is always the same. Same old. Nothing is different. Go around a maze, avoid the enemies, collect the mini-cubes, rack up a score. Gosh.

Oh, and in the switch from 2D to 3D, the 3D remains cheap.

And even if you kind of enjoy the game based on this short description, there are major design flaws that will eventually decrease your enjoyment. The mazes aren't done so well, as there are too many ways you can lose a life simply by ending up in a dead end. Which brings me to the other detail I kept repeating: There's way too many enemies for such small mazes. As you progress through the worlds, it becomes too difficult to avoid all the critters.

Also, I think I should point out the big deal breaker for me: You know how the whole point of this story is that Kubi is saving his friends in order to go home? Well, once you beat the final world, there's no closure to the plot. No ending cutscene, no way to know if he succeeded, no way to find out if it ends well. I know the story in this was just an excuse plot in order to explain why the game works the way it does... But this just sucks. I know, I know, arcade games never really had endings, but for a video game that pretends to go through the many generations of gaming, it could at least have given us some sort of final word on the whereabouts of our hero. Also, most arcade games had no end because they had infinite levels; that, or their last level ended with a kill screen because the game wasn't programmed beyond a number of levels. But this one does, it has thirty levels! It could have given us something more. But no!

Add to this some loading screens that take a while (and this is "supposedly" part of the concept, as it gets mentioned in the info screen for a few worlds), and you get a game that I just don't recommend to gamers. Or rather, as I said earlier, I recommend it only to those who like to try and beat the high scores. The only way to enjoy this game is to treat it like an arcade game. Don't go in hoping a story, or an easy difficulty. This game is HARD, like a lot of arcade games from the good old days. Really, buy it only if you have an interest in this sort of thing. And even then, you could still dislike the game because of its other flaws. So... yeah. I didn't like it.

Gosh, I need something happy now. Just checking TVTropes a little... I might go read a few pages about the funny moments in Nintendo games... Or maybe... Hey, what's this little heart for? Crowning Moments of Heartwarming? That will do, I guess. Read you next week.