Bit-1: Retro Game Goodness

I don’t play a lot of games on my iPhone, or anywhere, for that matter. I do enjoy them, but just find myself going other directions for entertainment most of the time. I know the iPhone is a great device for gaming so I thought I should probably check out this world a little more.

I decided to explore one of those retro-style game that I’ve been hearing so much about. I love the style and felt like a little mindless iPhone fun so why not. There are many in this space, but I decided to take Bit-1 for a spin. The screenshots looked impressive and the community seemed to enjoy it, so I picked up a copy to check it out for myself. My thoughts after the jump.

Style

As you have probably already figured out given the name of this game it has a bit-like, retro feel throughout. Everything from the environments to the controls to the menus is consistent in this style.

Showing off the retro-bit styling

Showing off the retro-bit styling

There have been a lot of games that have gone this route and I can’t speak for all of them, but I can say that Bit-1 has found a really cool place. The game has what I’d call an updated, retro feel to it. Visually, the game looks like something you would have played in an arcade in 1990, but there are small touches that make it still feel new. One of these is the gameplay controls. They’re touch buttons that sit on top of the environment you’re playing through, that make your iPhone feel like an old Nintendo controller.

The audio elements definitely play a part in this for me as well. The gameplay produces sounds like you would imagine from an old arcade game, but the music falls right into that old, yet new space. It’s a little tricky to explain, but I’ll say that it’s a really enjoyable feeling especially if you’re someone that remembers playing those old school games.

Gameplay

The game is fairly simple in concept in that it is a standard platformer. It isn’t overly complicated, which to me, makes it more fun and an easy game to play to kill a few minutes here and there.

You play a little robot type character and attempt to lead him through each level. These aren’t all that long and feel almost puzzle-like. The first time through is typically a bit of a shot in the dark at how best to pass it, but after a time or two you’ll start to see some of the things you need to do to complete the level.

The obstacles adhere to patterns, giving it a puzzle feel. There are a few creatures that you’ll face that do have a mind of their own, but they still act in predictable ways. So you essentially pay attention to what creatures you need to get past and discover ways to deal with them as you move forward in the game.

Weapons

You’re armed with a gun that has an endless amount of ammo. Along the way you’ll be presented opportunities to change your gun. There are several different options that are better for various parts of the game, but the cool (and partially frustrating) thing is that in many situations you won’t know what you gun will change to until after you’ve walked over the badge.

Missiles!

Missiles!

There are definitely certain situations where one gun helps out much more than the others and with the randomness of new gun drops (except after killing an enemy) there is an element of luck involved. You can actually hurt your chances by changing to a different gun when you had the one you needed, as well. It’s a fun element to the game. That said, there are also places within levels where a gun drop will be available without killing an enemy.

The triple blaster mowing through bad guys

The triple blaster mowing through bad guys

Energy-Up

Killing enemies will sometimes result in different guns as I just mentioned, but it will also present you with energy-up opportunities as well. Your energy gets knocked by about half for most enemy strikes (although some take off about one-third) and an energy-up will make up that difference, so you can take a hit and then recover enough to take another one as you move through a level. Some enemies, however, will strike with enough force to kill you with one blow.

An energy-up

An energy-up

The different strengths of the enemies combined with the energy-ups provide another element to a game. Sometimes an opportune energy-up can completely save your game. As they are randomly dropped when you take care of a foe, you just never know when you’re going to get that helping hand.

Foes

There is a wide variety of enemies to tackle throughout the game, and new ones appear fairly regularly as you move through the levels. Some are your basic adversaries and are easy to deal with — pattern shooting and only a couple shots of your gun to take out — while others are considerably tougher. Some merely take more shots to kill, others shoot their weapons in more difficult to manage patterns, and others still are able to fly around. There are some along the way that would be more closely related to a boss as well. They are much larger and require much more effort to knock off.

Time to get the boss

Time to get the boss

The mix of characters to battle combined with your weapons possibilities make for some really interesting battles. The type of weapon you currently wield could play a big difference in how you handle a particular foe and can make a normally simple situation into a tricky one.

Scoring

Coins are scattered throughout and can be gathered to increase your overall score., as will taking out your enemies. Killing a boss for example, will drop a whole pile of coins. That said, it is possible to complete levels without even paying attention to coins; you may want to try for higher scores down the line to better your last level passing, or compare yourselves with others through the Game Center.

Just took care of the boss, now to go for the reward

Just took care of the boss, now to go for the reward

Environments

The environments are bit-beautiful. The game is meant to feel retro and it does an amazing job at that. You’re able to pick from two different chapters of levels to work through: The Princess Paradox and the Bloody Castle at the time of this review. Each has its own feel and its own set of characters, yet they definitely do still feel part of the same game.

Birds and some sort of space ship thingy in the background

Birds and some sort of space ship thingy in the background

The background imagery is quite impressive and adds a serious distracting element to the game. There may be birds flying through the screen or even huge rocket ships while you’re trying to make a jump onto a moving platform while shooting some flying enemies coming right at you. Sometimes they are subtle, and other times you need to make a conscious effort to block them out. This is a little thing that makes the game more challenging (at least to me).

Rocket ship in the background

Rocket ship in the background

Really, the environments feel like works of art. While still maintaining that bit feel to them, they are extremely detailed and well crafted. It’s a joy to make your way through this world. Playing the game I always had this feeling of anticipation waiting for what the next level (or ever part of a level) would look like.

I talked a bit about the music earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. The soundtrack is just awesome and adds so much to the overall environment. Do yourself a favor and play with the sound on.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned, I’m not a huge gamer. There’s a good chance I wasn’t using the proper terms you’re used to seeing in a game review. With that in mind, I felt compelled to do a review of Bit-1.

I completely love the retro feel, and the gameplay is just flat out fun. It’s challenging enough to make me seriously frustrated at times, but conversely exhilarated when making it through a tricky level. From the music and audio to the visual elements it all combines for a wonderful experience.

Games are meant to be fun, entertaining and allow you some reprieve from your life for a small chunk of time. Bit-1 creates that experience with the iPhone dead on.


Summary

A retro-styled game with simple graphics and awesome gameplay.

9
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