Tuesday, 11 October 2011

8-Bit Night (PC)

RetroSouls' world-rotating platformer 8-Bit Night (formally known as 8-Bit Story and MegaRunner before that) has finally been released on the PC... But hang on, something about this game feels very familiar, doesn't it?  That's right - regular RGCD readers will recognise that 8-Bit Night is essentially an enhanced PC conversion of Alter Ego, a game that the same developer (and later Shiru) released for the ZX Spectrum and NES to pretty much universal acclaim.

8-Bit Night is a game built around a simple, yet previously unused mechanic.  On a base level it's a standard retro platform romp (which is where I imagine the 8-Bit of the title comes in) - your little man must collect all the glowing 'pixels' on each level whilst avoiding spikes, nasties and falling to your death.  Same old, same old.  However, the special trick here is the addition of a ghost character whose position and movements mirror yours on the opposite side of the horizontal (or vertical) axis across the centre of each level. Pressing the action key or button flips the world and swaps your position with the ghost - enabling you to reach areas (and pixels) that were previously inaccessible.  Also, some pixels can only be collected by your ghost character, whereas others are limited to one particular axis, resulting in some top quality puzzle solving fun.
Thankfully, the core game-play of Alter Ego has survived the massive injection of extra Bits. Visually, the first thing you'll notice is that the game is now rendered in 3D and that instead of swapping your sprite with the phantom across the horizontal or vertical axis, the whole level itself rotates.  It's a trip.  Secondly, there's a load of new features that have been bolted on to the original formula, including mines, pickaxes and tons of additional hazards and enemies; all of which are gradually introduced and increased in complexity over the game's 50 levels.  There's a lot of variety for such a deceptively simple game concept, and despite the early levels being perhaps a little too basic, the difficulty really ramps up near the end with a combination of ninja-like reflexes and a logical mind required to win.

Presentation is solid, yet there's an absence of proper graphics options within the game and the review copy I was sent actually failed to work at all with my ATI card until I was pointed in the direction of a patch.  Likewise, there seems to be no introduction, premise, in-game plot nor support documentation whatsoever, which makes the original name '8-Bit Story' a little ironic when you consider that the game features neither titular component.  In fact, wouldn't it have made more sense for this game to be called Alter Ego, and the 8-Bit versions 8-Bit Night instead?  An other issue to consider is the key binding; yes, the game does support xbox controllers, but when it comes to keys there is no redefine option and the player is stuck with the cumbersome Z, Space, Enter and cursor keys combination.  German players will not be happy.  To further rub salt in the wound, for some reason the earlier and rather clunky WASD method of flipping the screen has been left in (why use one button when you can use four?) - surely it would have been better to map the two primary action buttons here?

If, like it's earlier 8-Bit equivalent, 8-Bit Night had been released for free then I'd have given it a wholehearted 5/5 recommendation.  However, as a commercial release with a $10 price tag I would have expected some of the more boring issues, such as a lack of definable keys, joypad configuration and a play guide to have been addressed.  However, the innovative concept and blend of gaming genres is to be applauded, and if you enjoyed Alter Ego half as much as I did then I'd say that 8-Bit Night is still worthy of a purchase.

Download the demo or buy the game here (from the RetroSouls site).
4 out of 5