Cubes as far as the eye can see.
UPDATE: I've changed some things. After playing the game more post-review, I noticed you CAN see your scores and Pixel Fly counts from the overworld. It's something I criticized before, but I'm raising the score by .5 thanks to its inclusion. I also know that you can mess with the camera (a little) and skip cutscenes, but since there is virtually no digital manual (seriously--go here for more luck), I didn't realize those two things were possible. I'm not saying the game is hard to figure out, but a digital manual would have been welcome and... normal. Anyway, the rest of the review stands. Still a fun game!
Bit Boy Arcade features a spunky little cube named Kubi and the digital avatar of Bernd Geiblinger, the game’s programmer. Kubi’s job is to run around mazes rescuing his friends and activating Pixel Flies while avoiding enemies and hazards. Bit Boy Arcade is a fun, if somewhat repetitious, 3D platformer/maze-navigator.
Geiblinger has created a new world for Kubi to explore, and he’s eager to do it. Each level consists of a grid-like cube-based construct—a bit like Edge—and you move Kubi around using the D-pad. Despite the game taking place from an isometric view, I didn’t struggle with the controls like I did in Edge. However, you cannot use the Circle Pad for navigation—it only controls the camera in a very limited way.
Your primary goal is to find all of Kubi’s friends, who float above certain squares. Once you’ve found all his friends, Kubi powers up and can destroy enemies or hazards. Opposition comes in the form of “shadows,” vaguely humanoid monsters without a clear front or back. They patrol much of the game, and while their movements are predictable, it’s not always easy to tell what direction they’re facing. Losing all your lives results in a Game Over (of course). The only way to continue? You have to spend two Play Coins! Finally—something to use Play Coins on.
The worlds are very colorful and the catchy music gives them a lot of personality. There’s a garden, a desert, a glacier, an underwater maze, and more. Boss stages consist of psychedelic rainbow-colored mazes followed by an inventive monster to destroy (the first boss is basically Andross). There’s really no shortage of content, as each level has twenty stages (“phases”), and I’m kind of addicted to the game. In a really strange way, it reminds me of Super Mario 64: since each stage brings a new wrinkle to the level, I’m constantly forced to look at a familiar layout in a new way, and approach it differently. It’s also interesting that the mazes become increasingly complex—this isn’t something I fully appreciated until I started revisiting older levels.
I do have a few criticisms: there’s altogether too much unskippable dialogue between Kubi and Geiblinger. They get together and chat every five stages, and Geiblinger starts the game with a monotonous, lengthy monologue. This might not be so bad if Kubi had a different voice. He sounds like Darth Vader and can be a brat. He loves his friends and enjoys the challenging mazes, but that voice drains his character of any relatability. It would be like giving that voice to Kirby. You can look up, in the overworld's high score portal, what stages you've cleared to 300,000 points and collected all the Pixel Flies, and even go right to the stages you haven't. However, once you complete that stage, you don't go back to the score menu--you have to exit out, which is annoying.
During the game itself, the camera’s limited movement sometimes prevents you from seeing everything you need to see—there were plenty of times where I ran smack-dab into a shadow because I couldn’t see where he was. You can’t rotate the camera around the maze or switch to a purely bird’s-eye view. Granted, rotating the stage would screw up the directional controls, but there’s got to be a middle ground. One section of the glacier stage in particular lends itself to risky, blind maneuvers. The rainbow stages can be particularly vexing—the difficulty ramps up considerably from what you’ve become accustomed to and I lost a lot of Play Coins in these areas. A lot of gamers will relish the challenge, but I kind of got sick of the level of precision these areas required. You can turn on an Easy mode once you die twice, but...your score will be lower.
Overall, though, I really like Bit Boy Arcade, and I continue to play it in an effort to get all the Pixel Flies and high scores. It’s a charming game with a few issues, but I’m having a good time despite them.