Pixel art platformers have become hot property over the last few years with loads of them being released by indie developers. The majority of these games push the boundaries for gameplay and art design, so they are normally a joy to play. Indie developer Studio Koba are looking to join the list of new classics and win hearts with their 80s inspired techno adventure Narita Boy.
Narita Boy’s adventure begins with a computer game designer aka ‘The Creator’, having his memories sucked into the game console that he created, Narita One. Elsewhere a fan of The Creators flagship title Narita Boy is also sucked into the game.
Once in the game under the guise of the titular Narita Boy, our hero learns of what really happened in the Digital Kingdom and how he must defeat the evil Him and his Stallions while retrieving The Creator’s memories. Narita Boy’s story is as audacious as it’s brazen art style and has all the makings of a 80s VHS classic.
The instant attraction to Narita Boy is the amazing but bizarre art style, which has an obvious nod to classic films such as Tron. The retro-futuristic design works well fused with pixel art giving the game a bold and memorable look. Each level has captivating designs bursting with the personality that strike the right balance between technology and mysticism.
Players will also notice that there are strong religious and mythological themes that run throughout. With priests, disciples and monuments of deities merged with this neo retro aesthetic, Narita Boy is really one of a kind. My only issue is that a lot of the different elements within the levels blend into one, so it’s sometimes hard to tell what is an interactive platform and what isn’t.
Each new area boasts a vibrant colour design mixed with an array of dreamy hues that will make players simply want to explore the Digital Kingdom’s stellar beauty. All of this topped with a faint afterglow and full CTR look really makes Narita Boy’s neon adventure visually stand out.
The character designs offer stylish complex animations mixing sci-fi and fantasy, from robot horses with CRT tube television heads to sacrificial enemies like the Afflicted, Narita Boy does excel in this department.
Narita Boy’s overall design is a retro spectacle that will please gaming enthusiasts. Studio Koba has done an amazing job at blending different genres to create something special, even though it does draw influence from some 80s classics it still feels original and is simply a great looking action platformer.
The music is created by Studio Koba’s composer Salvador Fornieles who’s synthwave soundtrack is a great addition. Not only can players vibe to the retro futuristic tunes but they add so much character to each of the locales invoking a sense of adventure. The music is certainly one of the highlights of Narita Boy.
Narita Boy’s gameplay is split between combat, exploration and platforming puzzle solving elements. Brandishing his Techno Sword Narita Boy initially has a small arsenal of attacks that are effective on the early Stallions and bosses. Players will get accustomed to the gaming loop of dodging and slashing with the occasional use of the Home run attack or Ultra beam.
But as players progress so does the complexity of the enemies and the likes of Daddy Bomb, the Impaler and Warlock appear to mix things up. But what’s good is there are tonnes of new power ups which are handed to you on a plate.
Combat is fun and engaging, however I did find that no matter what enemy appeared it was very easy to get accustomed to their attack patterns. This also goes for the boss battles, which seem like they are going to be horrendously difficult but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I found most bosses to be pretty tame and easier to beat than their furious animations would let you believe.
I do think Narita Boy is lacking a difficult setting as I honestly never felt in danger even when surrounded by the more complex enemies who were easier defeat than expected, so this may be a slight let down for Metroidvania fans looking for a tough challenge.
Exploration is guided by story objectives, and new areas will open up as you progress. With there being much more focus on combat, exploration felt pretty limited. My main issue is the non-existent map, as there is some backtracking in the game and the world is pretty huge so it seems like a massive oversight to not include a world map in the game.
Narita Boy does offer fun elements to mix up the gameplay from just combat and platform jumping, players will get to transform into a digital stag or surf using a floppy disk. These little fun additions may be short in nature but look amazing and really help stopping the experience becoming repetitive.
The game is filled with platforming puzzle solving elements that can be quite challenging during certain points of the game and really lacklustre in other parts. However these do help break up all the combat and stop the game from becoming super repetitive.
Narita Boy is definitely one of the best looking indie platformers I’ve ever seen with it’s unique art style and captivating music. It’s neo-retro style mixed with religious themes make it unlike anything that’s on the market today. The emphasis on combat shows with its well worked mechanics and engaging system. However Narita Boy does leave you wanting more from its exploration and platforming parts. But I did enjoy my time with Narita Boy and it’s definitely one to pick up.
Narita Boy is out on Steam, PS4, Xbox One and Switch on March 30