B.I.O.T.A. Gameplay Preview

Developed by small bros, published by Retrovibe – April 12, 2022 (PC)
*MSRP: $9.99 – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1640320/BIOTA/

B.I.O.T.A. really feels like a modern Game Boy game. The game has a very limited color palette and it really brings you back to the days of playing games like Pokemon on the Game Boy Color and squinting at the screen when playing during the daytime because the screen’s backlighting was nonexistent, not to mention highly reflective.

It’s hard to tell at a glance if the asteroids and gas plumes are hazards or not thanks to the limited color palette.

While the game’s aesthetics do look pretty darn cool, it also made it pretty difficult to separate the layers in the game. I had a hard time separating the background from the foreground from the enemies and hazards sometimes. For example, in the very beginning of the game, you are trying to escape from an asteroid. There are small rock chunks blazing across the screen. It was very difficult to tell if this was merely a decorative item or would actually damage me.

Sometimes I don’t even notice the enemies on screen. It took me a while to get used to the graphics.

Later on in the game, I had similar issues with smoke puffing up from the ground and other similar environmental flairs, and sometimes had difficulty just out right seeing enemies. This is just a minor issue because after playing the game for an hour or two, you pretty much get used to it and have no trouble navigating the game. Like riding a bike I guess. All those hours painful hours of squinting at my Game Boy Color and Advance to make heads or tails of what was happening must have paid off finally.

The game is challenging enough that you will see the game over screen frequently enough.

Getting into the meat of the game, it’s actually quite delightful. It’s a punishing metroidvania game. You have a limited number of health points and some environmental objects just straight up kill you in one hit. Thankfully, the game will let you save at anytime by pressing the ‘X’ key as long as there are no enemies on the screen.

The platforming and combat feel great for the most part, although I personally did have issues with the wall jumps not functioning properly half the time while playing on keyboard. Whenever I pressed the spacebar against the wall, the character would just slide off instead of jumping, leading to some very frustrating moments. I’m going to blame the design here because out of all the other platforming games I’ve played on keyboard, the wall jumping in this game feels the worst by far.

Look at how dense the game is. They managed to do a lot with very little in terms of pixels used.

Other than that complaint, I enjoyed my time with the game. Exploring the levels are old school fun. Since you have limited health and health regenerative items are very infrequent, you need to proceed carefully through each room. I oftentimes eliminate all the enemies so I can save the game before proceeding to the next room. If I manage to get damaged, I actually do a tactical reset and get myself killed so I can reload from the previous save and try again in order to keep my health high.

There are small quests you can do such as finding and refueling the mech and bringing it to this radioactive reactor room.

The game also has neat little, unmarked quests. For example, there is reactor room that has been flooded with radioactivity. You can’t safely proceed until you find a mecha suit. The mecha suit is located somewhere in the level but it is out of fuel. So now you have to procure fuel, go back to the mecha suit, refuel it, and then presumably control it to the reactor room. It’s a small but pleasant surprise that came out of nowhere.

You can purchase upgrades by collecting currency. They are definitely worth getting.

In addition to the occasional quest and npc you meet, you will find collectable items spread throughout the game. It can be anything from specimen samples, to upgrades such as increasing the total number of currency you can carry at a given time. The currency can be used at the black market to purchase special ammo refills, upgrade your health, upgrade character abilities, and so forth.

You can switch to any character at any time if you come back to the surface. Each character has different abilities and play style.

Speaking of character abilities, there are multiple characters in this game. You can freely swap between them whenever you find an elevator and take it back to the surface. Each character has different attributes as well as special abilities. I didn’t really feel a difference in the character attributes but the special abilities definitely make a significant impact. For example, I played a sniper character. His attack rate was slow but his range was quite far, letting me dispatch enemies before they got close. His special attack let me snipe any enemy on the screen from any distance, making it much easier and safer to clear the room. The special abilities are limited in use, but you can always recharge them by purchasing ammo from the black market or by picking up items that enemies will sometimes drop.

Overall, B.I.O.T.A. is a pretty neat retro callback. It is also a reminder that while games back then are still neat, the improvements made since then are definitely worth keeping. The limited color palette does look pleasing but it is not conducive to making the levels easy to read. In addition to the pleasing retro aesthetics, the game has a bumping retro backing track as well. I enjoyed most of my time with the game, minus some frustrating moments with the wall jumps.

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