Bit Boy!! Arcade Platform: 3DS (Nintendo eShop) Developer/Publisher: Bplus Price: $7.99 Bit Boy is back, and he’s bit-ier than ever (same amount of boy though)! Bit Boy!! Arcade is one of the more charming eShop titles for the 3DS that is brimming with innovation in every cranny. The story that you’re presented with here is essentially a dialogue between Kubi, the block of a game character that you control, and the floating head of a Game Designer. Basically, after Kubi has experienced being killed in his game, the Designer (Bernd Geiblinger, Bplus' real-life CEO) turns back time and erases Kubi's world (and friends, as a result) in order to keep him safe. Thus, you and the Designer must rebuild this world, saving Kubi's friends along the ways. Everything old is new again! In this arena, Bit Boy!! Arcade has some interesting things to say about the relationship between creator and creation (while managing to be fairly tongue-in-cheek and wry at the same time, and also offering you much fourth wall breaking fun such as Kubi complaining about the Developer giving him pink levels), and although the look of this game may be fairly cutesy and simplistic, some fairly existential topics are delved into. A story old as time itself, or rather, as old as the Atari… Moving forward, each level requires you to save all of your pixel friends, while avoiding the enemies around you, with all of this kind of operating like a next-level pixel-fueled Pac-Man. At the same time, there are also 20 PixelFlies to collect in each level, enemies to destroy, and the general goal of hitting a score of 300,000 (dependent on elements like time) in each phase. Immediately as you are plunged into this world, the beginning of the game unfortunately offers you an incredibly slow start where you’re pretty much just listening to instructional voice over (which is hardly necessary to understand the game) before you actually get going. This is a frustrating start to your experience, but once it’s over things begin to move pretty smoothly. It also helps that this beginning is set in one of the game’s most interesting, creative offerings, the overworld. This is presented to you as a free area to roam through where many random game mechanics are floating around and depicted in various ways. As you progress through the game, this world evolves and these mechanics solidify further. As Kubi’s world slowly comes more and more to life. It’s an incredibly novel approach to a game hub, and especially appropriate in a game that revolves around game design, but seeing how concepts like polygons, sound, and speed are depicted are truly innovative. Bit Boy!! Arcade’s level system is a little confusing, with each world being split up into three levels, and each level being split up into 20 phases. These 20 are in turn split into ten regular levels, and ten “action” levels where Kubi has the ability to turn into different forms like rocket Kubi, Bomb Kubi, and Jump Kubi to take a different approach to the gameplay. It's a little confusing, especially at first, as you don't exactly understand where to go, or how much progress you've made versus how far you have to go, but it eventually starts to make sense of itself. While the story concept and design is extremely creative and impressive, it almost feels like the game’s WiiWare predecessor (Bit Boy!!) utilizes these elements more effectively. No question, this is a fuller, more fleshed out, better game, but in the WiiWare original, you could move through the video gaming generations much more quickly, which is really (in my opinion) when the game comes together and you can appreciate what it's going for and the bigger picture of everything. Of course all of that is still present here, but it takes you so long to actually progress to the different generations of gaming, that the idea kind of loses its impact and focus. Designing the different worlds perhaps so each one contained different generations within it would offer a little more variety up front, and maybe feel like a more complete experience from the start If the graphics ain’t broke, then don’t update them! The graphics in Bit Boy!! Arcade really excel and are extremely vibrant and colorful (even the interstitial “loading” screen between every ten phases is gorgeous). As you move through the various generations of gaming, the graphics upgrade accordingly and properly convey the respective eras, too. The audio even goes further than the graphics, offering you tons of catchy, well composed songs that you’ll be craving more of rather than looking for a drill to ram into your ears. Additionally, all the game dialogue is provided through voice acting, and even though Kubi weirdly sounds like the incarnate of the devil in pixel form, it’s an appreciated feature that makes the purchase feel fuller. Experience the past in the future-est way possible! The 3D is also one of the more robust presentations of the feature (and one of the best on an indie 3DS offering), giving you a clear idea of what the 3DS has to offer, with 3D that enhances the levels and isn’t in the least distracting. The game even offers you the ability to toggle the severity and aspects of the 3D, allowing you a more controlled experience depending on your preference, which is honestly something more games should offer. The pixels may be blocky, but the controls are smoooooth Another welcome gameplay feature is the incredibly smooth, responsive, simple controls that respond without lag and actually benefit from you trying to exploit mashing and quickly manipulating your D-pad. As smooth as these controls feel though, there are a bunch of minor oversights that can accumulate at times. The camera for one can be unforgiving, and even though you can conceivably control it with the Circle Pad, it doesn’t offer you much help, and as a result, enemies can sometimes be hidden. Additionally, it’s sometimes unclear as to where Kubi can actually move, with him moving up blocks, on walls, or in corners, seemingly at random occasionally. While the enemy AI has firmly stated mechanics behind it, the lack of ability in distinguishing what way your enemies are facing can more or less eliminate this rule-setting. Video games can be a scary place (if you don’t have enough continues! That being said, something like adding a map with the locations of your friends and enemies on the touch screen would have helped rectify some of these issues. None of these amount to much more than the average adventure and puzzle game agitators, but when they pile up, the frustration can build. Thankfully, everything else the game has going for it can easily have you overlook all of this, and Bit Boy!! Arcade can largely coast on good will. Simplicity does not equal simple Bit Boy!! Arcade manages to actually be fairly challenging, and even levels within the first world had me dying before I knew it. The game actually requires you to use the tricks and tactics it explains to you, rather than just moving along, and if you are still having a difficult time, there’s an “Easy Mode” offered that slows down the enemies, but also drastically decreases your score. This feels like a fair trade, allowing you to beat the levels, but not unlock all of the extra, more challenging content. There’s also a fairly inspired continue system as well that rewards stalwart gamers and offers minor penalties to the careless ones by allowing you to buy continues with game coins. So are Kubi and the Game Designer going to start looking at two-bedroom pixel houses? While there’s a wealth to collect and achieve in each level, there doesn’t seem to be anything beyond that, or any unlockables beyond the main game. This isn’t too debilitating, since the game does offer a lot, but a little something extra for retrieving all the pixel flies and getting all the ZeLeLi medals (with a 300,000 score) on each level would be satisfying. At times the objectives of the levels do lead to the phases getting a tad repetitive after a while, especially since so many phases are required of you in each world, but the challenge involved still manages to have each experience stand out and this not be much of an issue. The world! The graphics! They’re…evolving! Pros: +Incredibly catchy, enjoyable soundtrack +Vibrant graphics with robust 3D capabilities +An actually challenging difficulty +Witty script that’s a big love letter to retro gaming +Exceptionally creative overworld hub +Tons of customizable options and variety Cons: -Controls are occasionally sticky and problematic -Somewhat confusing, muddled game progression and scope -Occasionally repetitive -Game mildly “talks down to you” when you begin Bit Boy!! Arcade warrants a score of 7.5/10 due to its impressive aesthetics and incredibly creative gameplay experience that respects retro gaming and difficulty, while allowing you to configure your playthrough to your preferred specifications. However, minor control and story progression complications as well as somewhat repetitive objectives and layouts keep this title from being the gem that it’s capable of being. Disclosure: A review copy was used to evaluate this game.