Wednesday, October 22, 2008

8Bit Killer

This weekend I played an FPS that really renewed my faith in the genre. That game? 8Bit Killer. If you haven't already guessed from the screenshots, title, and general nature of the games reviewed here, it's an 8-Bit Game. It plays like Doom or Wolfenstein and is actually a 2-D game. You can't aim up or down, and never need to. It was made by an indie game developer who goes by "Locomalito." My Spanish isn't the best in the world, but I think it translates to something like "Crazy Badass." You can check out his official site (and download 8Bit Killer, along with other games) here. The site has both Spanish and English versions (but is easily navigable).

The game tells a story of a group of marines defending Earth from an alien invasion. You are hopelessly outnumbered. Most of the aliens look like medieval torture specialists. The story is interesting, and extremely appropriate. And... well, I guess I should go ahead and confess: I try to only review games that I've beaten. This doesn't always happen, and I've broken the rule several times already, but at least I'm upfront. I've gotten to (what I suspect) is second to last level, and I loved every minute of it. I had a lot of free time over the weekend and spent a good 4-8 hours (who knows?) getting to the second to last level and successfully dying.

Things start out simple enough. The first level is strictly linear, one room after the other, no sidepaths. The second level is reminiscent of Doom, and is an exploring level where you have to find keycards, secrets, weapons, backtrack, solve puzzles, blow shit up, etc. Third level is a boss fight. When vanquished, you proceed to the next chapter. The first 3 chapters stick to this pattern, but the linear level is replaced by another free-roaming level in the (suspected) final chapter.

The design is fucking great. Brilliant. Even the linear levels are fun because they conjure memories of simpler times, when game design was bare-bones, but well thought out and interesting. You feel like you are playing an FPS incarnation of the original Contra at times. Other times you'll be reminded of Bionic Commando, Doom, Wolfenstein, Quake, but you'll be completely aware that you are playing 8Bit Killer, because the game oozes originality in an interesting way. If the NES had a First Person Shooter, this would be it (though I believe it is too complex for my buddy the NES). None of the concepts are new (except maybe that all enemy bullets can be seen, and dodged!) but the game makes them its own. It is not exploiting other works, but collaborating with them as part of a video game tradition. It converses with other games and carves its own identity, differentiating itself from the pack with its graphics and music.

Graphically, the game uses 32x32 pixel textures, but runs in a much higher resolution (maybe 1024x768?). The texture resolution is lower than even Wolfenstein, I believe. This method forces design creativity, and the color palette brings the game to life. The colors are rich, complementary, perfectly varied, and set the mood for each level wonderfully. The sprites are detailed and display master craftsmanship as far as pixel art goes. 8-Bit aficionados will be drooling, and if you're like me you'll wonder why a game like this wasn't made in the '90s. In fact, 8Bit Killer was released in June 2008, so it's still fairly new. It's proof that the graphics race is coming to a close, or, more appropriately, that gamers are gaining a deeper understand of what is meant by a game's "graphics." For a while, that meant realistic, (and I know I'm not the first to say this) but lately simpler graphics have a very big fan base. Mega Man 9 is proof of that, as well. Hopefully we can shed the term graphics when reviewing games, and use "art direction" as a more descriptive nomenclature.

Finally the music. 8-Bit chiptunes composed and programmed by RushJet1. You can access his website here. It's some of the best I've ever heard. As good as the best of Mega Man 2 or 9's music, maybe better. The game comes with 10 tracks, which is reason enough to download the game, even if you don't want to play it (but why wouldn't you?). The music quotes a few NES games, Bionic Commando, Mega Man, and possibly a few others, but it's never more than quotation. The songs, above all else, are catchy. They have an infectious quality and lodge themselves in your brain. It's unavoidable and completely welcome.

8Bit Killer has a few small problems, if you want to pick it apart (and why not!). One problem I noticed with the game was performance-related. It had a tendency to slow down at times, but the music never changes tempo, so it's not a huge deal. The game is easier to play when it slows down, but less fun, BUT at least it won't cause a cheap death. The second is the lack of options. Any options. It uses standard FPS controls (WASD + Mouse + Alt + Space + Esc) and I think you can opt out of the mouse. Another problem is that hitting ESC quits the game. Instantly... a simple Y/N screen would have been nice. I'm hoping for an updated version in the future that at least adds this small feature.

If you're still reading, you'll love the game. Go download it now, now! This game is so fucking awesome and it's so fucking free that there is no excuse. I hadn't played an FPS in a while before this weekend, and I've always had a bit of trouble navigating game. My usual strategy is just to bumble around killing monsters (or soldiers) until I find the exit. Not the best strategy, but serviceable. The levels can look similar at a first glance, but after a few playthroughs you'll have the layout memorized.

There are plenty of health and ammo powerups, including some that increase your max health and ammo, which is great because you will grow in strength as the game progresses.

You'll kill hordes of monsters, my first kill count was over 600 when I Game Overed. Which happens after 3 deaths. No saving. No continuing after that, it's back to Level 1-1. Brutal, but you (and I) shouldn't be dying anyway.

After all, you're Earth's last chance. Don't fuck it up!


Benjamin Fennell said...

I've nearly downloaded this several times before when browsing over at TIGsource. I may have to cave and finally give it a shot one of these days. I've been intrigued ever since I first heard about the game, but in being more inclined to play FPSes in shorter bursts, lack of a save feature's had me hesitant.

8bitcity said...

I really wouldn't worry about the lack of a save feature. I failed to mention that the game is fairly short (in a good way). If you new what you were doing you could beat it in an hour. The music is so good, I promise, that you'll want to play it just to hear the awesome beats. Really, the first 3 chapters only take about 30 minutes, and saving in between chapters would honestly take away from the game. It's like an NES game with no save feature, it's like Contra. The game is made to be played in one sitting. Do yourself a favor and download!!

Anonymous said...

Hi (sorry for my english). That is the idea, a extrange and fundamental characteristic in 8bit era, was that you will play a game again and again even if you has beat the game. That was because each level and each moment was fun. Another characteristic was the "fear to die", if you can save a game just before the final battle, there is no tension in the fight, you simply can repeat and repeat until you win.

Old games was simply fun, 5 minutes of gameplay = 5 minutes of fun. New generation games are more like films, each moment is amusing, but you dont feel the necesity to play again a level you have beaten before, and sometimes, the add dead gameplay time, like "go to the other side of the town to talk somebody, who sends you back where you came from"...

Thats the reason for the "no save feature" :-)

8bitcity said...

Justified by the creator himself, thanks for coming by Locomalito!

I wonder what he's working on next...

Benjamin Fennell said...

Wow, no kidding. I wasn't expecting to see the creator himself come by and comment on it. I get the design idea there, at any rate, having grown up on 8 and 16-bit gaming. And I'll definitely be downloading 8-Bit Killer soon. I just finished Ikachan the other night, so I'm looking for another good indie freeware game to play.

Anonymous said...

Hey, man. I was wondering if you wanted to do a link exchange with me over at eh?

Anonymous said...

After all, you're Earth's last chance. Don't fuck it up!

What a great tagline! That should be in the game, which I'm downloading right after this post.

samiorigami said...

Great game, really.
such cool enemies.
they are wonderful,
but on to the point:

I want more posts!!!!
::Sami starts a riot::

Anonymous said...

I love the visual and everything. But I'm surprise I actually get motion sickness from this, lol. Am I the only one?

Anonymous said...

It agree, this remarkable idea is necessary just by the way [url=]acheter levitra[/url] Thanks for an explanation.