Fans of Cartoon Network's "Regular Show" know how it embraces anything retro, specifically from the 1980s. Whether it's the LaserDisc, VHS tapes, mullets, or montages with period-specific music and home consoles that still use cartridges, the show embraces things from the '80s instead of poking fun in a mean-spirited way. It should come as no surprise, then, that the series' first video game should also be retro, right down to the title, Regular Show: Mordecai & Rigby in 8-bit Land.
Players get to play as both Mordecai and Rigby in their quest to escape from video games. The duo must go through several stages in three different genres that were popular during the era: the side-scrolling shooter, the top-down shooter, and the side-scrolling platformer. Tying all of this together is an overworld map that is reminiscent of the world map from the classic Super Mario Bros. 3.
At Comic-Con 2013, we tried out the side-scrolling platformer levels, and developer WayForward has done a great job of hitting all of the expected checkmarks for the genre. Both Mordecai and Rigby can be chosen at any time, and each has special abilities that make you switch out constantly. Rigby, for example, crouches while sprinting, so he's perfect to get through tight spots and areas with low ceilings while Mordecai is the only one of the duo that can perform a double-jump. Jumping on enemies kills them and produces pick-ups, including cash and gold VHS tapes. Grabbing a mullet gives the duo extra firepower in the form of projectile weapons, and levels are designed to be straightforward but with little nooks and crannies that can be explored for more pick-ups. In short, whatever you expect from a platformer is in the game. About the only thing not present is a timer, so people can explore rather than rushing through every level.
A welcome surprise for some gamers is the decision to make the game difficult by virtue of the one-hit kill. Like a wide swath of games from that time period, one hit is all it takes for you to lose a life. While you have the benefit of checkpoints, the one-hit kill mechanic is rarely used nowadays outside of games with classic platforming legends, like Mario or Sonic. Enemies are also strategically based to encourage thoughtful platforming; it takes some skill, especially when enemies are placed at edges of platforms or when rushing through a level means running right into a foe as you land or make a crucial jump. You can give yourself a little buffer when you pick up a power-up, since the hit gets rid of the power-up first. With so many games employing a health system, regenerating or otherwise, it'll be interesting to see if players appreciate or loathe the return of this gameplay mechanic.
Aside from the gameplay, the presentation takes on the 8-bit theme well enough. Though it was difficult to hear at the venue, the sounds are decidedly 8-bit, with the music rivaling the stuff that was heard during the era's heyday. The same goes for the sound effects, which are pitch-perfect. It remains to be seen whether the voices will sound as good — or if they'll be added at all. The control scheme is also very retro-inspired, with the face buttons being the only input for the game. Though it is on a system that sports a touch-screen, the game's refusal to use it shows the dedication to an authentic retro feel.
About the only thing that doesn't adhere to the 8-bit theme is the graphics. Though it takes on the simple style of the show with a limited color palette, it displays more colors on-screen than a typical 8-bit title would. It also has multi-plane scrolling backgrounds and more animation depth than is typical from the NES/Sega Master System era. If you can get over that, you'll find WayForward's typical old-school mastery at work in a beautiful, timeless-looking sprite game that sports some modern trappings.
Regular Show: Mordecai & Rigby in 8-bit Land is scheduled to hit the Nintendo 3DS in late October. Look for more coverage of the game until then.
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