Bit Boy Arcade is a Pac Man clone if you are to look at its base level. If you judge the game based on that level then you will throw it away within a matter of ten minutes of play. If you look a bit further below the skin, you’ll see the little additions that have been added to make it make it different from the yellow ghost chaser. As you play more, you’ll see it move further away from that classic and into its own game space.
You start as a small red cube called Kubi, who is looking to free other Kubi from the Shadow Plattchen. You do this by moving Kubi around 3D blocky worlds (which look amazing with the 3D switch on), collecting pixel flies and freeing the other Kubi while avoiding the Plattchen. As you move up the levels in the game they expand in size and therefore complexity and while not overly challenging they are interesting to play. Mistakes that are made are usually because of your own lack of patience that inability to control Kubi but sometimes the erratic movements of the Plattchen can lead to lives being lost.
Once you complete the first ten levels then you start to open up powers for the rest of the game. This is where Bit Boy arcade starts to move into its own space and really shows what it can offer. Powers appear as tiles in the level which will have different effects, everything from allowing you to jump, to turning you into a rocket or a bomb. It changes the game from a simple Pac Man clone into something more unique. It also does the job of pushing you on to discover what the other levels have to offer. Collection of pixel flies become an essential in order to unlocks other levels in the game. So there are always reasons to go back and visit previous levels to collect more of those pesky flies.
The other part of the game that stands out is the main game hub itself. A flat grey plain that in the opening of the game does its best to try to explain the back story but it takes a long time to get through the story before you even get to play the game itself. It is not clear where you need to go to start the first level. I must have spent five minutes trawling about the hub before finding where I was meant to go.
Once you complete the first ten levels and sit through another explanation of events and why you are continuing on your quest then the hub transforms not only into a level selector but a lesson in how the game was put together in terms of textures, transparency, even how Kubi moves. I’ve played a lot of games and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. It borders between being both interesting and pretentious. In the background there is always Bernd, the floating head designer of the game, narrating what is happening and giving you information on the section of the hub you are in. His chat is not always welcome, sometimes an annoying babble that you want to slide the volume down on. Bplus must have spent hours recording the dialogue for the game but I wonder if it was necessary.
This is the main issue with the game, the fact that there has been so much additional work added in to all the side stuff and extras and chat and dialogue and so on, that in some ways it can feel overworked. Looking at the history of the game and its long development period it becomes clear that Bplus have done their best to add in extras where they maybe should have known where to stop and draw a line under things. It only helps to highlight some of the shortcomings of the main game and the areas that could have been improved. Leaving it ten levels to introduce powers is too long in my opinion.
It absolutely undersells the game from the outset and I can see how some would dismiss it after ten minutes play. I also don’t understand the use of play coins in the game for continues, it seems like something that was on the ideas board that was added because it could be done and not questioned why it was done. While I salute the quirkiness of the story and the information Bplus pours over you, it sometimes is too much. It certainly has enough content to keep you playing and the pursuit of pixel flies give you reasons to come back again and again.
Bplus wants you to love Bit Boy Arcade as much as they do and invest as much time as they have in the game. It could have done with fewer hands on in terms of the overall presentation and quirkiness and more time making sure you got into the more enjoyable ‘special power’ focused part of the game. Bit Boy Arcade doesn’t commit any major cardinal sins but at the same time didn’t set my 3DS alight. It’s a game to consider if you like something unusual from the norm. Just don’t expect to be finding something mind-blowing in Kubi’s blocky little world.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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