High Strangeness: The 12-Bit Adventure Review
Ever wanted to go back to a simpler time in video games? I know I have. I recently got to try The Order: 1886. There's a point where I throw an apple at a guy to get his attention. Instead of picking it up and throwing it at him, I have to find the apple, look over it's beautifully rendered shape until I find the context-sensitive button press, then watch a cutscene as my character hurls the apple, only to have an NPC do the dirty work for me anyway. It made me wish I had a button on my controller where I could rewind a console generation. We didn't worry about graphics nearly as much, and maybe I'd have had the privilege of taking out the enemy myself. High Strangeness has that button I wish I had on my PS4.
High Strangeness is indeed highly strange. At times a throwback to the SNES era, then also jumping back to the 8-bit years, the game's main mechanic resides in an early learned ability to alternate between dimensions, namely the 8- and 16- bit worlds. It's not purely aesthetic: the characters in the world are aware of the change as well. Weapons work differently in each world, certain enemies can only be defeated in particular dimensions, and some paths can only be traversed by bouncing back and forth between the two dimensions.
The storyline is traditional old-school action RPG with a few modern twists. Your main character starts out with a simple quest but is soon locked into being the hero for a multidimensional quest. Our hero Boyd gets some simple everyday items that function as traditional RPG weaponry, like a flashlight that doubles as a sword. There is an energy meter that levels up as you go on that only allows you to attack so much before it's depleted. When it starts out, the meter is so small it feels like you are playing a hit-and-run game of tag, but it fleshes out and allows you to get more hits as the game rolls on.
Boyd's adventure is full of puzzles that cater to classic gamers. Right off the bat, you'll be putting up reflective barriers and bouncing compact discs to flip switches. After you learn the dimension swapping, you'll be running gauntlets that force you to swap back and forth to survive. Enemies trapped in individual dimensions have to be defeated in their respective one, while others will be easier to dodge the attacks of in their respective dimension. The puzzles fit as actual gameplay, not just things to fill in the hours, and it is rather satisfying to find a successful solution.
High Strangeness attempts to pull off the multi-dimensional aspect seen in other games, like Zelda's Link to the Past or Mario's 2/3D Paper Mario outing. While definitely a unique idea, I would love to have seen it mean a bit more than it does. And while a design choice, the whole darkness/skulls thing kinda turns me off. What I've played so far didn't have much purpose for everything to be skulls, darkness, and eyeball powerups, but perhaps that's just personal preference on my own. The uniqueness of the dimension swapping gameplay mechanic and the cleverness of the puzzles will keep me coming back. Other reviews discuss the brevity of the plot and it wraps making you feel like a sequel could wrap up some more points, I feel that this game (much like The Order: 1886 mentioned at the beginning) is a great concept and potential start to a franchise worth following.
Score: 3 out of 5