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Backlog Review | B.I.O.T.A.

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Humanity, or should I say humanity’s money grubbin’ mega corps., have been vying for this fancy new substance known as Viridium. Sure, it’s shiny and worth a boat load of cash, but if you ask me, it wasn’t worth squat until we figured out how to use it for interplanetary space travel, my playground, and unfortunately the backyard for a nasty alien organism known as The Agent. An organism that just so happens to be crappin’ in the cornflakes of one of those mega corps. that cuts our checks, V-Corp. They’re also the reason we’re on our way to Frontier Horizon, a shithole mining facility where a group of high profile scientists researching these alien assholes went missing, and it’s our job to find out what happened. It doesn’t matter what we run into though because we’re locked, loaded, and itchin’ to put those slimy good for nothin’ whatchamacallits back where they belong – the dark, cold, and infinite depths of the void! Or to put it more plainly – straight to hell!!

In B.I.O.T.A. from small bros, we follow a ragtag group of combat ready hard asses known as the Gemini II Squad in a retro inspired metroidvania romp! Nostalgia is hitting hard with its Game Boy aesthetics and we’re excited to blast our way through hordes of pixelated aliens – here’s how it went:

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You know, there’s something about the four color monochrome palette of the Game Boy that gets me every time. It always impresses me how the clever use of contrast and painstaking placement of such a small amount of pixels can create a detailed and engaging world, and B.I.O.T.A. seemed to be doing it in high style when I first came across it! Its default orange, red, yellow, and gray palette in particular was what caught my eye and made me excited to dive into what would have been the Contra-like Game Boy game of my childhood dreams! Plus, the fact that I’d be able to flip through a bevy of fun alternate color palettes was the icing on the cake.

The cover art also did a great job of letting me know that I was in store for some badass looking boss fights, which had me on the edge of my seat because if it was going for that Contra vibe, it was hitting right on the nose. With all that paired with the game’s wonderfully up beat chiptunes I was all the way on board and ready to dive right in!

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When I started B.I.O.T.A. I was immediately charmed by its aesthetics, but within the first 20 to 30 minutes I ran into a few quirks that had me hoping it would only be a matter of time before I got used to it. Things like the jump feeling too floaty, leading to one too many pitfalls, or the wall cling mechanic not always working when I felt it should. Even with how the dedicated save button worked. Initially it was unclear that I had to kill all of the enemies on screen before I could utilize it!

Luckily another 20 to 30 minutes after that, all of those gripes were alleviated, simply by virtue of me taking my time to figure out how those mechanics worked. After which I was hopping, skipping, and scaling through the beautifully rendered environments like a parkour master, and blasting enemies left and right. Speaking of the combat, this is really where B.I.O.T.A. shines, especially when swapping between its 8 distinct characters (4 default and 4 unlockable). Each with their own attack styles and special weapons. You’ll have everything from remote detonated mines, shot guns, gatling guns, snipers, and even a drone to help you mow down anything that’s in your path – bosses included! Those things, by themselves, made exploring the dark tunnels of Frontier Horizon super fun! Of course, after testing them all, I did find some of the characters more fun to play as than others, but I really appreciated that there was enough variety to cater to whatever playstyle you prefer. With all that in mind, there are even portions of the game where you’ll get to ride a multitude of vehicles ranging from a rocket shooting mech that you’ll use to stomp through goo infested tunnels, to a submarine that’ll have you shooting down aquatic alien lifeforms and dodging sea mines! Things like that always get me going.

When it comes to exploration, a lot of it is laid out similarly to your standard metroidvania. Where key points of the map and progression are usually locked behind a specific ability or key item. Unlike other games of its ilk though, key items and abilities (or characters) will need to be purchased instead of simply acquired, using the game’s currency – Viridium. In some ways I really liked it because it encouraged you to fight enemies along the way in order to collect the money you needed, but at times could be a pain when you had to backtrack to some remote Black Market in order to get a rusty valve or something. An integral item you couldn’t pick up on your initial visit because you didn’t find enough of the coin purse upgrades yet needed to hold enough Viridium to be able to afford it. Having a way to warp back to that point, or even having the items become available for purchase at your home base would have taken a lot of that tedium out. That said, it was still a fresh take, and most of the upgrades you could purchase were usually well within an affordable range so I only really encountered it a few times.

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In so many aspects B.I.O.T.A. hit the mark and honestly there isn’t much I would want to change, at least from a gameplay perspective. I think that the game is exactly what the devs set out to create, and it’s all the better for it! With fun engaging combat and stunning 8-bit inspired graphics I was compelled to keep going until I finished it. That said there were still a few minor things about the game that if improved would only make for a better experience, in my mind.

The first being the palette swap feature. In a lot of ways I loved it because it allowed you to freshen up the look every now and again, but only about two thirds felt practical! I say that because some of them just blew out the visuals and sometimes even made parsing what was happening on screen that much harder. I think a more curated collection of palettes that were more readable across the board would be great. Then I’d be more willing to swap through them more often.

Visuals aside, much more concise and shorter vehicle levels would have made those sections so much stronger, and true standout moments of the game! Now, don’t get me wrong, they really were some of the best parts, but the honeymoon period was over pretty quickly when you realized you had to fight the same swath of enemies over and over again for another 5 minutes straight. This is doubly true for the submarine section, which was a slow going labyrinth, and the rappelling section that lasted 10 minutes longer than it should have!

Finally, and this is a case of me just wanting more of it, but I would have loved to see more utilization of the different characters. You know, some way to encourage character swapping other than to use their unique weapons in the game. There was only one instance where I absolutely had to use a specific character to progress, and it would have been so much fun to have more things just like that! Maybe require the use of the sniper to trigger out of reach switches, or the meathead commando to operate the large, oversized fly shooting turret! One can dream, am I right?!

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All in all B.I.O.T.A. was an absolute blast that delivered the running and gunning retro shenanigans that I was craving. Clocking in at just over 6 hours for completion, it didn’t overstay its welcome and ended on a satisfying note that I’ll definitely want to revisit at some point in the future! With a variety of play styles, welcome modern conveniences like quick saving, and of course stunning 8 bit aesthetics I can’t recommend it more. Especially if you’re a fan of classics like Metroid and Contra.

If you’re interested in checking out B.I.O.T.A. you can find it right now on Steam!