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Review: Lil' pirate 8 bit demo
Well, my last review was written many years ago, so to spice things up I shall take a look at Lil Pirate: 8-Bit Edition.
Andy has pretty much made the same game as the original Lil Pirate. The primary differences are the graphical stylizations based towards gaming consoles in the late 80s and early 90's - specifically, the NES and Master System.
The game runs at a very smooth rate, and the general presentation does indeed mimic an era of lack of processing power. There are however, a couple of scruffy elements. The distinct lack of sound effects, the rather unattractive "stars" that appear when an enemy explodes, and early versions of this demo gave the player the unwanted ability to fall off the edge of the screen; fortunately, Andy has fixed this issue.
More importantly, Andy's new projects as of late have been using external files to load up levels. While all very clever (and I believe Phizzy helped to code the editor) it would be fantastic if Andy could consider designing a brand new engine. All his recent games look and play very similarly.
So overall, presentation is pretty decent, if flawed.
The gameplay comprises of your protagonist (a little orange blob) working his way through each of the slightly samey levels, shooting bad guys with various weapons that are picked up along the way. The first weapon you will use is the simple arrow, but for me at least this is by far and away the best weapon to use. Arrows kills enemies efficiently and stick in certain walls, granting you the opportunity to use them as temporary platforms to allow access to different areas of the level. The other weapons seem somewhat irrelevant. The big bombs in particular just don't feel right, while the "throwing the juggling balls in the air before dropping them" power-up serves to frustrate, because it's more suited to destroying blocks than disposing of the bad guys. The Lil Pirate engine, as expected from the original, runs smoothly, although there are some discrepancies cast over the quality of the enemy engines. The bad guys just "float" off the edge with a lack of realistic gravity, and judder occasionally when changing direction. Player control though is fantastic, with responsive controls. The major gripe I have with this game is, as mentioned earlier, the levels are very samey, in terms of design. They lack inspiration and some perhaps need gimmicks to break up the monotony of the slog of moving from left to right. Of course, this is a demo/abandoned project and will probably never been addressed for the future as a specific issue for this game, but it's possibly something to be aware of when making Tops 4 or Buzz 3 (please do this Andy!)
The graphics replicate the deliberate limitations of the console wars competition that Andy himself organised. They mostly look rather nice, aside from the icons representing the players weapons, that definitely look unattractive. As a result of the small colour palette, Lil Pirate features a lot of dithered sprites, and this actually works in its favour, fooling the eye into thinking there are more colours than there actually are. Lil Pirate has some basic, but nice animations, although enemy artistry could use a little more work.
Sound and music... this is where the game falls down somewhat. There are no sound effects to speak of, and the music is mostly awful. With all due respect to Andy, who has composed it himself, there is a distinct lack of a catchy tune, and its all just "noise". Level 2's music is especially atrocious. However, all of it has been composed, once again, to match the limitations of the competition, ie, all "chip" music. But it really could do with some work in this department.
The demo actually lasts for quite a long time, but whether or not you'll switch off before it finishes is the question. On the one hand, Lil Pirate is an enjoyable enough experience. But on the other, the levels are just too similar. Even when you get to the beach stages, it only feels like certain graphics have been changed. Is the game challenging? Not particularly.
As a demo, it's pretty big. And definitely worth a look to observe Andys attempt at something a little different graphically. But, visuals aside, don't go expecting Lil Pirate to be considerably different to the full version of Lil Pirate, released a few years ago. Probably around the same time as my last review, and I hope to write more of these :)
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The Chris Street
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