Are you looking for a hardcore 2D platformer with plenty of precision jumps and no checkpoints that has subtle overtones to how Mario can stomp on any Angry Bird he likes because he's the man? Then 8BitBoy is for you!
While its obvious that it takes a lot from Mario games, 8BitBoy has its own flavor and style. 8BitBoy is a 2D platformer designed by one person like Cave Story. It looks and plays similar to your typical Super Mario game, and more specifically, Super Mario Bros 1 or even Super Mario Land because of its power ups. There are four tiers of power up. 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. With all of that being said, you'll be lucky to have any of them. When you get hit, you'll lose a power up and if you have none, then you'll die. The power ups are rare.
The enemies feel good and there is a lot of look diversity, but for the most part they're your standard left and right variety. There are fish that jump out of water pits. A few enemies take two hits or 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 really nice. You'll go up, down, left and right, but never fly or swim. You'll never go to other maps within the level. Its just all within the same map. It just seems lacking when compared to Mario when that's clearly what he 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?
For a game called 8-Bit Boy, it feels more 16-Bit with a bright and vibrant color pallet and four button controls. The controls are easy, and the game's creator has listened to feedback. There's a run / attack button, a jump button and a use item button. Thankfully the attack and run buttons have been merged, because it just felt awkward having them as separate buttons. The use item comes in handy, because when you get 100 coins, you earn a random item. Once the random item settles, you can save it for later ala Mario, but you don't have to get it as it falls. You'll just have it. To top it off, the story cut scenes are not in a retro 8 bit style, but they feel like the old VGA 256 color pallet games.
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 and 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 of 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 gameover 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 in terms of constant jumps over death pits that you'll need to land on one block platforms over and over again. If you miss, its death. It is especially difficult on levels with raising / lowering death liquids or moving platforms. So much movement makes the FPS drop from 60 to 30 sometimes. The game even has a frames per second meter in the settings. Not just that, but the game can try to fake you out with backgrounds that look like blocks and ledges, but alas they're backgrounds. Perhaps grey means background. Eventually enemies will literally jump out of the background with no warning other than remembering where they are. This is especially problematic when there are jumps that require you to hit this background jumping enemies. Its like fan made Mario levels that have piranha plants coming out of the dirt instead of pipes.
Another problem I have with this game is screen control. Some jumps are 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 don't lock the screen to the boss's room, so you can be blind to where the fast moving bosses are if they're on the left.
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 be fixed in the sequel.
With all of that said, there is some fun here for the hardcore. People that like challenging jumps, but for everyone else, Super Mario Bros X (from the maker of Terarria) just feels like a more complete package, a level editor, diverse weapons and enemies. 8BitBoy just feels generic and one dimensional compared to what it draws inspiration from.