Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Moustache King Adventure (PC)

Some modern games are retro-infused. Some modern games are retro-inspired. Some modern games are retro-looking. And SOME modern games are actually retro. Like Moustache King Adventure, for example. Harkening back to the 16-bit days, Moustache King Adventure (which I, like a neatly groomed lip sweater, will trim down to MKA moving forward) is a truly nostalgic side-scrolling romp with a whimsical feel and punishing level of difficulty. With art and design by Jason Boyer and music by HyperDuck SoundWorks (who have worked with a number of indie titles such as Under the Ocean), this game was originally created for the AGBIC competition.

Players are introduced to the game with a delightful chiptune track and a short, but enjoyable sequence in which our bare-faced protagonist meets the Moustache King, and vows to usurp him someday from his hairy throne. Fastforward to "Ten Years Later" and our main man is sporting a fine paintbrush 'stache, ready to take on the world and all its challenges.

Specifically, those challenges would be the resident baron, duke, count, prince - and ultimately - the Moustache King himself. The path to whomping each of these hirsute rulers involves platforming your way through the beautifully drawn world, reminiscent of the Super NES era's Super Adventure Island.

Astute MKA'ers will discover design and gameplay cues to all sorts of other retro titles peppered about, from the castles that feel a bit Super Mario, from the upgrading-your-moustache-by-defeating-the-previous-boss-and-using-that-skill-to-beat-the-next-boss mechanic ala Mega Man, to the level and town navigation, which evokes an interesting feel of classics Zeliard and Faxanadu. The dialogue is often humorous and irreverent, and players can uncover goodies such as moustache tins, which equal as life bars.

How is it to play? Remember when I said it's actually retro? Well, it is, for better and for worse. The difficulty level is pretty brutal. I'm a veteran gamer and had to battle the moustache baron (Dali, incidentally) a few dozen times before I discovered the trick. Death happens quickly, and poor hit detection doesn't help the player's frustration level.

In the beginning, all one has to defend themselves against the furry onslaught is the protagonist's wimpy punch, which has the effective range of a ballpoint pen and the damage potential of a mild fart. (Remember Castlequest? His punch is kinda like that.) BUT, if this title was about emulating the "good old days", it does so quite admirably, right down to a few annoying mechanics.

All in all, I feel that Moustache King Adventure is worth a look for anyone who's battle-hardened by decades of 16-bit gaming, especially for the excellent design and tunes, but I debate whether it provides enough true "fun" to play through to completion - even if it's a shorter title.

Download the game here (from Jason Boyer's website).

2.5 out of 5