BiT Evolution Review
An interesting nostalgic gaming journey, but perhaps a "bit" lacking
What was once old is new again. At least, this seems to be the case in the modern era of gaming. As the industry continues to push the technological boundaries of graphics, horsepower, and scope, many developers and gamers alike are backpedalling a bit, and rediscovering a certain nostalgic charm many classic games of the 70s, 80s, and 90s held. It is a charm that many modern games cannot seem to recapture. This has given rise to a renaissance of modern games that take on a retro graphical and gameplay style.
BiT Evolution, by developer Major Games, is one of the now countless games riding the wave of the current retro-renaissance. Overall, this game, like many of its ilk, does a fine job in emulating that old-school gaming feel, certainly from a graphical standpoint, but also partly in terms of its gameplay and mechanics. Though, while playing through it, I couldn’t help but feel as if there was a plethora of unrealized potential this game didn’t quite capture.
You play as a character, fittingly named, “Bit”, who finds himself venturing through two separate worlds, or “dimensions”, as he must evade a slew of typical platforming obstacles (pits, spikes, and even turtles), collecting “pixels” along the way, and evolving through the video game generations of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Each of the four main worlds represents a different era of games, beginning with the simple, but charming Atari era, and ending on the golden age of the SNES - my personal favorite era, both within BiT Evolution and in general. The worlds not only represent the graphical styles in each respective generation, but the game also cleverly sneaks in some references from each era as well. For instance, world 2, which is primarily a representation of the Gameboy era, introduces a Professor Oak look-alike and the concept of “evolution”, while the Super NES-esque world 4 has enemies straight out of Super Mario World, and utilizes gameplay elements that resemble 16 bit hits like Sonic, Metroid, and Mega Man.
This unique characteristic is where the game really stands out and where it excels the most. The simulated Atari, Gameboy, NES, and Super NES experiences truly felt authentic throughout for the most part, in everything from the familiar enemies and environments, to the charming 8 bit tunes and the somewhat stiff control scheme.
The real creative twist to this seemingly simplistic game however, is the multi-dimensional feature interwoven throughout. This is where the heart of BiT Evolution’s gameplay lies, and where the game truly differentiates itself from the pack of similar modern/retro titles.
Each stage comes with a certain counterpart, or “dark version” if you will, as it certainly has a dark and eerie vibe to it, not too unlike the dark world from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Its actual name however, is “The Realm of Code,” and in a sense, this is fitting, as this alternate realm can be used to skip a particularly tricky portion of the main level. You achieve this by being killed in the normal, or “Rendered World”, as you then are transported to the Realm of Code, and can make your way through the level, using one of the many portals scattered throughout to warp back into the main stage.
The other main purpose of this stranger, darker dimension, is the strategic placement of the aforementioned pixel collectibles, many of which can only be found in the Realm of Code. Unfortunately, the pixels themselves mean little in the grand scheme of things, making the venture into this realm largely unnecessary as long as you are not struggling to press onward through the Rendered World.
Apparently, the pixels once held a greater purpose in the early version of the game, as the player was once required to gather each pixel needed to progress, but the concept was axed by the developers, citing some displeasure of certain fans having to painstakingly backtrack through the Realm of Code to snag all the pixels. Now these collectables merely exist for the purpose of unlocking the far more difficult challenge stages following the completion of the game, as well as simply presenting something to occupy yourself with when traversing the brief stages, so as to encourage greater exploration.
These challenge stages are a fun addition and certainly ramp up the intensity by a tremendous margin, while adding some needed variety, but they feel more like a quick tacked-on feature rather than part of the game itself. And it is difficult to find incentive to undergo the chore of backtracking, required to gather all of these pixels, simply to unlock a challenge stage way down the line, and that doesn’t really offer much of a different experience anyway.
This hinders the depth of an already short and simplistic experience and leaves it feeling a bit lacking. While it was probably a good decision to remove the requisite of collecting every pixel to advance, as that would have been quite a burden, it may have been better to find some sort of middle ground in terms of making them a greater factor within the game. Perhaps a minimum requisite of pixels to unlock the boss of each world could have been implemented.
Don’t get me wrong, the idea of having dual, parallel dimensions is interesting. However, I do feel as if this concept could have been explored even further, especially since the significance of the pixels has diminished. It may sound as if I am dwelling on this issue, but considering how heavily integrated the concept of collecting pixels is throughout the game, it really does hurt the experience, both in terms of depth and length. I also felt as though the Realm of Code could have been used more cleverly during the boss fights, which are otherwise pretty enjoyable and offers yet another change of pace from the game’s typical formula, albeit a brief one. The potential is certainly there. It just hasn’t (as of yet), been fully realized.
Regardless, I still enjoyed playing through this nostalgic trip overall, particularly during the later worlds, where the gameplay becomes far more interesting, in depth, and colorful (quite literally). Using the offered power ups in the later worlds is admittedly quite satisfying and enjoyable, and it was refreshing to see a nice variety of environments that harken back to many NES and SNES classics. If nothing else, you should find yourself getting a kick out of Major Games’ homage to retro gaming, particularly if you grew up gaming in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. When it comes to this novelty at least, BiT Evolution certainly succeeds. Yet, more often than not, I found that playing it mostly just made me want to play some of the actual titles that this game imitates.