Fast-paced gameplay; Tons of content.
Horrid, unconventional controls; Inflexible camera angles; Bad voice acting and storyline; Awful level design; Lack of variety; Poor implementation of Play Coins.
Bit Boy!! Arcade, a game that places developer Bernd Geiblinger inside his own video game, has a genuinely interesting concept. Initially, I was excited to see how Bernd would interact with the game’s main protagonist, Kubi, within the world that he created himself. Not only that, but the colorful visual style and fast-paced nature of the game drew me in, making it seem like an experience that I could not pass up. I really thought I would be in for something special.
Unfortunately, I quickly learned that my preconceived notions were far from reality, as the overall experience of Bit Boy!! Arcade falls flat in a lot of respects.
The expectations I had for this game dropped immediately upon seeing the story unfold. The game starts off with Kubi dying from some boss in the original Bit Boy!! game, leading Bernd to start praying to some magical flying gear named ZeLeLi in hope that it would rewind time. When it obliges him, he starts deleting everything in the game and gives Kubi an aesthetic update in an attempt to change his fate. Oh, and the magical gear also gives Kubi the ability to talk to Bernd, which is basically an excuse to shoehorn the dialogue between the two in the game.
Even though it might be a little natural for me to be confused about the story since I’ve never played Bit Boy!!, a lot of things stood out as being completely ridiculous. If Benrd is a game designer, then why would he have to pray to some weird god to bring him back? Why can’t he just put Kubi back in the game and give him the ability to talk as well? The bad story is made even worse with the inclusion of voice acting, as Kubi sounds like the embodiment of Satan and Bernd sounds like he’s trying to give a really bad Tommy Wiseu impression.
The core of Bit Boy!! Arcade’s gameplay works really well due to the fact that it highly mirrors Pac-Man games. However, instead of searching for pellets to eat, Kubi must save his Pixel Friends scattered throughout each level while dodging various enemies along the way. Collecting all of Kubi’s Pixel Friends grants you invincibility until you exit the stage, letting you attack every enemy to score points. Finishing a level with a fast time gives the player a higher score, so it’s imperative to play each level as quickly as possible.
While this type of gameplay has a lot of promise, it unfortunately doesn’t play as well as it sounds. My biggest issue with Bit Boy!! Arcade is its horrible, unorthodox controls. While you can hold down the D-pad or the face buttons to move Kubi around, it’s impossible to reach full speed this way. To move faster, you have to alternately hit the D-pad and the face buttons in the same direction! Not only is this tiresome, but it makes it hard to move around a level with pinpoint accuracy. The controls also prevent you from actively moving the camera around because it’s controlled with the circle pad. If you’re mashing buttons on both sides of your 3DS, then you’re not going to be able to alter the camera angle at the same time. Even if you were able to use the camera, it’s not even that good because it’s inflexible by design, creating blind spots for the player.
Each world contains a set of levels that have 20 individual phases, leaving the player with tons of content. However, most of the phases failed to impress me because of a lack of variety. Each phase is mostly a variation of the same level, which means that you will basically explore the same area 20 different times. Bit Boy!! Arcade attempts to keep these phases interesting by adding special abilities for phases 11-20, but the game never adds anything outside a bomb, rocket, or a jump ability. The game will rarely implement a clever variation, such as having an enormous level or new areas to explore, but the changes are usually too minuscule to care about. The game may also throw a new stage in one of the phases, but this is a very rare occurrence as well.
Another problem with the levels is their structure. Kubi is supposed to be able to move onto higher and lower platforms, but the level design does a bad job of indicating where this is possible. Often, I found myself thinking that I could go somewhere that I couldn’t, affecting my overall performance in a phase. There are also some levels that have long dead ends, making it easy to die from an incoming monster. On top of that, the speed and the amount of enemies drastically increases in later levels, creating a huge difficulty spike that is wildly unfair to the player.
When you inevitably lose all of your five lives, you will have to give up two play coins to continue or start from either phase 1 or 11 all over again. While I’m happy that Bernd thought to use Play Coins in his game, this is not the way to do it. The game’s difficulty is way too high, plus there’s no way to earn lives, making numerous continues and a ton of Play Coins necessary for progress. There’s an easy mode, but choosing it dramatically lowers your score and modifies each stage to be a cakewalk, creating a very jarring difference in difficulty.
Even though I have a lot of complaints with Bit Boy!! Arcade, I genuinely enjoy the core concept of the game. I liked speeding through each phase and setting high scores, but the plethora of flaws it has prevented me from fully loving the experience. The game could have been something fantastic, but it desperately lacks the polish it needs to be entertaining as a whole.