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This game is a gem of retro goodness!

After many months of searching for a good, fun, metroid-style game, I thought I'd never find one, until I stumbled upon this little gem of a game. It truly was made in the spirit of old, 8-bit NES games, and I really appreciate that, since I'm a retro game lover. The effort put into making this game really shows, so I felt compelled to write an in-depth review of it, to show others why exactly I think this game is so great.

In terms of storyline, this game hasn't much to offer, but that's okay. It was made in the style of old NES games, and those didn't exactly need a lengthy story. The only "story" you get is this: "Strange activity expected on the underground floor. Dangerous life-forms detected. Sending in the Exterminator". You're also briefly shown your targets, and that's it, you get thrown right into the game. But as I said, that's fine by me; ye olde NES games didn't do much else, sometimes they didn't even tell you anything about what you're supposed to do. So having any kind of Background to the game is just fine, and I shall rate the storyline a 3 out of 5. I would have liked just a little more background on the character you're playing as, other than just calling him an "exterminator"; still, it's just fine the way it is.

In terms of graphics, I can't obviously rate the game from the viewpoint of modern games, since the developer aimed at reproducing the style and feel of an old 8-bit game. Looking at the game from that point of view, the graphics are about the best you can do with limited colors and blocky pixels. The tiles used for creating the game world define themselves mostly through their color palette - you can't actually tell what they're supposed to be, as the game plays out in some sort of cavernous area - the "underground floor" - but that's alright. In ye olde times, you were supposed to use your imagination a lot, and having such a vibrant color palette and nice, though pixelated, texture helps a lot with that; you can tell from just looking at it that a lot of love and effort was put into it, and you can't help but to appreciate the effect. Animated waterfalls in the background add a really nice touch, too.

Spriteworks, however, leave something to be desired; don't get me wrong, I really liked them, and they fit the setting of the game just about right, but there are some little things I must address here.
Firstly, the main character, which looks just like your average "human being" type of sprite, didn't strike my fancy too much. What is an average "dude" doing in a cave infested with (alien) monsters? He doesn't even wear so much as protective armor, it looks more like a simple blue jumpsuit with brown shoes, fitting his brown hair. When he fires his gun, it looks more like he's just sticking out his finger and saying "BAM! You're dead!". Also, when he gets the "Wing" item, he can fly by actually flapping his arms; it looks hilarious. His sprite doesn't look bad, though, since the animation on him is really smooth and fits the style, it just strikes you as, well, odd. But games of that time all had their little oddities, so I'm not too mad at that. It's also a bonus that every weapon in the game features it's own, unique shot sprites and animation.

Some of the enemies' sprites will remind you of creatures you find in Metroid; not that that's a bad thing, as I am a great fan of Metroid. The other creatures are obviously unique to the game, but I must say that they look a little bland, at times. Still, that's in the spirit of the games of that era - "normal" enemies didn't have to look great, as long as they didn't look like a random mess of pixels or broke the game. And none of the enemies in this game do that. You can always tell what is supposed to be an enemy and what's not.
The boss's sprites are really unique and look just great, although you can tell that the first two's design has been inspired by regular enemies from Metroid. They're nothing like them in terms of their A.I., though, and are therefore truly unique to this game.

The one thing that really disappointed me, though, was the total blandness of the graphical representation of the upgrades you collect in this game. It really doesn't get more straight-forward than a simple pillar bearing the words "ARM" for a new weapon, "GUN" for ammunition refill, "WING" for the wing item (which as far as I can tell is unique to the game), "BOMB" for a new, bomb-type weapon, and "DOOR" for a door switch. I really would have liked an actual Item sitting on some kind of pedestal - or something - that I can pick up - instead of just passing through the pillar and picking it up that way - much more, but hey, it's still fun and you can at least tell what it is you're getting there.

As one of the commenters said, the shop's door - which looks like a black opening in a waterfall - could have used a little more definition to it, since first-time players could easily miss it the first time it shows up - it kinda blends into the background and looks more like a decoration than an actual entrance - but you will get used to it, since the game is at least consistent enough to always make it look the same.

The GUI of the game, as well as the menu which shows up when you press Escape, also looks fine and reminds you a little of old Zelda games, with it's blocky pixelated font and all. You can easily read and understand what it is trying to tell you, and when inside a shop, where it is vital that you know what exactly you're going to spend your money on, the game's even nice enough to give you a brief explanation of every item on the shop's upgrade list, when highlighted.

Money is represented in-game by a standard coin sprite; health pick-ups look like hearts, and ammunition pick-ups from enemies look like a little gun, so that's okay, you can easily tell what's what and what's worth picking up. Thus, I will rate graphics a 4 out of 5.

The great surprise for me was the game's absolutely astounding music. When I started the game for the first time, I wasn't expecting too much, knowing that most of these freeware, indie games, especially the ones smaller in actual memory size, didn't put too much emphasis on musical score rather than actual gameplay. But when I heard the first few notes of the game's incredibly catchy, 8-bit chiptune-style intro music - which I am a BIG fan of - I was literally moved to tears and found myself just listening to the music for a few minutes without doing anything out of fear I might break the charm.
Yes, it is THAT awesome.

Okay, back to being objective: The music is great, is very harmonic and pleases the ears, and even players that are not a fan of that musical genre will surely be able to enjoy it. The pace of the songs also go along really well with the overall speed of the game. All of the songs in the game - and there are quite a few - are really catchy to the point that they are ear-candy, and they never, ever get old. When playing the game, you discover that the music actually takes quite some time before it loops, so it never gets boring even when you hear the same tune several times. By the time it loops, you've already kind of forgotten the beginning of the song over the gameplay, so it's always fresh and new. You get a new song for every new area of the game, and you also never stay in an area that has the same music for too long, so that's fine as well.
The Bossfights all share the same tune, but it works great for those as the boss music really carries over that vibe of urgency and danger, making you feel cautious as well as daring to defeat that boss.
I cannot say much more without repeating myself, so what is left to say is that it sounds SO awesome, I just love it. Obviously, it gets a 5 out of 5.

The games sound-effects have that chippy ring to them as well, so they fit nicely into the music without disturbing the harmonics too much, so they don't flaw the experience but instead improve it. It's just so much fun hearing that pew-pew-pew noise of a laser and that GRRRSH sound of an 8-bit explosion again. They fit the style of the game, everything sounds as what it's supposed to be, and they enhance the gameplay experience quite a bit as you blast away enemy hordes with your gun, making them explode into their pixels; it feels really satisfying. almost everything has it's own sound-effects, the different kinds of gunshot, jumping, getting hit, etc., and I even noticed two slightly different types of explosion noises which the game alternates in between or uses as it is appropriate. They're never overpowering the music, and none of them sound too annoying, which is important especially in the shot noises as they are the ones you tend to hear the most of in these type of games, and even those manage to at least not make you want to turn your speakers off. There's no in-game volume control, but you don't need one, as the volume of the sound and music are perfectly balanced as is. They also score a 5 out of 5 with me.

Now comes the most difficult and important part of any review, the actual gameplay. The game is supposed to be an Action-Adventure-RPG crossover, and it delivers exactly that type of gameplay experience. In the spirit of the Metroid series of games, your main objective is to eliminate all the bosses, but to achieve that, you have to search for upgrades to your gear to actually progress in the game. You start out very slowly, only being able to jump and move around with the cursor keys at first. It's a nice added touch that you can choose if you want to jump with the up arrow key or the "a" key on your keyboard, as jumping with the up arrow key can be a little uncomfortable for some players. I'm used to both methods, but if I can choose, I always opt for using a dedicated "jump" button.

When you pick up your first gun, the game is nice enough to tell you on-screen what that gun does (it can destroy white blocks and open white doors) as well as explaining how to quick-change your guns - you press "q" - and how to fire it, which would be the "s" key. This happens everytime you pick up a new item and is quite helpful.

The different kinds of items include guns, which become ever stronger the further you progress into the game, as well as opening up new ways for you, as the second gun you pick up is actually a rocket launcher that let's you open red doors and destroy red blocks (Metroid reference again!).

Then there are the already mentioned "Wing" items which let you fly by repeatedly tapping the jump key; later incarnations of that power-up also have added effects, such as enabling you to fly in certain areas you could not in prior to picking it up as well as either slowly regenerating your ammo supply or your health.

The last type is the Bombs, which you throw by pressing the "d" key, and are lobbed like grenades. They enable you to destroy blocks directly above or below you, which you can't do with your gun as it can't shoot straight up, only left or right. Better bombs let you destroy different-colored blocks as well as being more powerful. You can't have more than one bomb on the screen, though, so you have to wait until the last one explodes before you can throw the next one.The good thing about the bomb is however that they immediately explode on contact with any enemy, block or door of the correct color, so you don't need to time your throwing of them.

What's also nice is that better weapons and bombs are somewhat "downward-compatible"; the Heat gun, for instance, which is a little stronger than the rocket launcher, can also destroy both red and white blocks and also open doors of both colors - the rocket launcher can also do that - which is good because the rockets use up 5 points of ammunition per shot whereas the heat gun uses only one, so you can leave the Heat gun equipped for longer periods, although it has a far smaller range, it's more like a flamethrower. The Ice gun and the Ice bomb, however, can only destroy blue, "ice" blocks and open blue doors. I found it a little odd that the Ice gun is used to destroy ice blocks; but then again, it didn't bother me too much. I found that the rocket launcher really eats up your ammunition a bit too fast; it would have been nicer if that gun used 3 instead of 5 ammo points, as ammo pickups only give you three ammo points back. The hearts you pick up also regenerate 3 points of health, by the way.

I also didn't like it too much that every gun uses ammunition and that all the guns share their ammunition, but with the aboundance of ammo refill stations, it isn't too much of a bother. The refill stations could have been better, though, since they only refill your ammo to a maximum of 30 points, even when you can already carry much more. Still, these refill stations are present in almost every room, to avoid getting you stuck with no ammo and therefore no way out of a room with closed doors and no other means of refilling ammo, so there is a certain amount of thought put into that. If you ever run out of ammo - which happens quite a lot - you can always go back to the nearest refill station and at least get a minimal amount back. This, however, renders the ammo pickups dropped by enemies almost useless, but that's not too bad. The shops - or Upgrade Stations, as the game actually calls them - also have the added effect of always refilling your health and ammo to maximum for free.

The game features a RPG-style level-up system, where you gain experience from defeating monsters and when you have enough, you advance a level. each level gives you some extra maximum HP and Ammo Points, as well as (slowly) raising the power of all your guns and your defense against damage. The coins you collect throughout the game are used as currency in the Upgrade Stations to purchase more max HP and ammo, as well as even more power for your guns and increased defense. There are a lot of locations with one-time pickup coins, but they are also randomly dropped by enemies, so if you want to, you can grind enemies and get ridiculously powerful.

I however found that this is not necessary to complete the game, the coins you can pickup from various locations are more than enough to buy all the needed upgrades, and the leveling of your character takes care of the rest. Getting yourself to a level higher than about level 8 is rather bothersome however, since from that point on you need almost ridiculous amounts of experience, which would really make you need to grind. That, however, is something I don't like to do in a metroid-style game, I'd rather avoid as many enemies as I can to preserve my resources for the bossfights and the areas where you can't progress unless you defeat all monsters - yes, the game has some of these.

The Level design is rather well thought out, although I found it a little too linear and rather short. It didn't require too much thinking about where to go next, which usually makes up the majority of an adventure game, but I'm not too concerned about that, the game is just too much fun.

The controls are simple, left/right for steering, A for jump, S for shoot, D for (Drop) Bomb, Q to cycle through weapons, W to cycle through the Wings, and E to cycle through the bombs, it's memorized easily and doesn't put your fingers under a lot of stress. Escape accesses the menu, where you can also change your equipment, as well as Quit the game or Load a saved one. You can Save the game at any Upgrade Station, so they serve that purpose as well. The response of the controls is just perfect: they're neither too slippy-slidey nor too stiff, they feel just right and make playing very enjoyable. Dodging your enemies is also quite easy, the character's movement speed is perfectly balanced with that of the enemies. Enemy shots are a different story, but even they can be dodged if you're clever.

The Bosses are well thought out; they present a considerable challenge while at the same time not being too difficult. I had my problems with the second Boss, as the ammo refill stations in that Boss's room appear to be bugged, they run out of ammo after refilling you twice - I'm not sure, though, it might be intended to be so - but since you have the ammo regenerating Wing powerup at that time and I later discovered that I was using the wrong weapon anyways, he's actually quite easy.
considering all that, it's not perfect but very close; I rate gameplay a 4.5 out of 5.

To sum it up, I can only recommend you download and play the game. It's fun, it's quite challenging, it never gets too boring and there isn't an awful load of backtracking required to get everything the game has to offer. It also won't take you too much time to complete the game - I finished it in about 2~3 hours - so if you find the Metroid series of games too hard for your level of gaming skill or just plain too long, but still like the genre, this might be the game for you.

My final rating of the game comes up to:
Story & Background: 3/5
Graphics: 4/5
Music: 5/5
Sound FX: 5/5
Gameplay & Controls: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.3/5, which I will round up to 4.5/5.

P.S. I would like to thank the Author for making such an awesome game, one I have really looked for so long and never found until now; also, thanks for choosing the different pieces of music, it fits the game so well. And a big, big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart goes to the composer of the music, I loved every bit of it. Should the different songs be from more than one composer, consider yourselves all be praised equally.


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Wow, quite a long review! Speaks highly of how you feel about the game. I'll have to give it a shot.
I'll be reviewing the game too. Mine won't be nearly as long, but yes this is a great game.
Having two points of view on the same game can never hurt, so please go ahead, mate. I'm looking forward to reading yours.
I'll be reviewing the game too. Mine won't be nearly as long, but yes this is a great game.

One year passes by and still waiting for that review. :P
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