8-Bit Boy Review
Itsa MEa... MAH-reeoh clone!
Too often, however, 8-Bit Boy feels more like a Mario clone, rather than a Mario parody. Instead of building on a nostalgic base and expanding into new and interesting territory, 8-Bit Boy seems content to simply copy Super Mario Brothers and hope that the memories alone will keep you entertained. An example of this is in the art style: yes, everything is gloriously rendered in 8-bit graphics, and your main character looks just like Mario (with a color change); but your enemies are rather uninspired: some mean-looking birds, some bats and snakes, and a few amorphous blobs. Locals are similarly flat, with nigh-blank backgrounds and very generic blocks as your main source of platforms and interaction. Again, some players might be tempted to say “It’s supposed to be bland, just like the old games!” But falling into this trap doesn’t give the old Super Mario Brothers credit where it’s due: the Mario world of turtles, mushrooms, and pipe-plants is zany and fantastic, and even if it didn’t make a lot of sense, it kept you entertained.
What really gets me about this game isn’t that it’s a Mario Brothers rip-off: it’s that we’ve already seen how to properly parody or reimagine the legacy that SMB gave us. Super Meat Boy had deliberate Mario references, but it had a drastically different and modern approach to action platforming, as well as its own unique visual style. Braid referenced Mario, but it did so with the intent of deconstructing the genre and paying light homage to its predecessors. 8-Bit Boy is just... Super Mario Brothers, only not as good. It doesn’t so much mimic the feeling of replaying a classic game, as it mimics the feeling of replaying that awful second-rate cash-in that your uncle bought you for Christmas one year.
It’s just not enough. The moral of 8-Bit Boy is that the classic platformers of our childhood can (and should!) be ported into flash versions so they can be saved for the ages and played by the veterans. The problem is that gamers already knew all this. We don’t need a reminder that this is possible more than we need the actual games themselves. What’s worse, there’s a second ‘moral’ of 8-Bit Boy that almost contradicts it’s only source of appeal; the game relies heavily on a sense of nostalgia, but by including the weaknesses of the old gaming style along with the strengths, gamers might just be reminded of why it was a good thing that video games grew beyond their eight bit roots. Games today don’t just have better graphics: they have better gameplay, writing, and visual style. By showcasing the weaknesses of early platforming, 8-Bit Boy is like a deliberately schlocky science fiction film bent on reminding you of how awful 60’s science fiction was. Well, congratulations, I suppose, you’ve certainly convinced me.