Although Nintendo's first foray into the world of newly developed downloadable games was in hindsight not the most well thought out, the WiiWare service still produced many a gem. LostWinds, World of Goo, and LIT, to name but a few, were worthy of purchase and greatly added to an already diverse system catalogue. One such title that did the same but without critical acclaim is Bit Boy!! from Bplus. A novel idea with a shaky foundation, the game took protagonist Kubi through blocky worlds that evolved generation by generation, starting from the pixel beginnings of the Atari era, all the way up to the Wii's visual standard. Bplus is back again, this time on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, with Bit Boy!! Arcade. After the briefest of hands-on sessions back in 2012, how does Kubi's second adventure pan out now the final game has been released?
This time around, Kubi's endeavour takes place on sturdier ground, with a set hub world and connected levels all in the same visual style. The story takes more presence, also. The game's very own designer, represented by a floating pixel head called Bernd, saves his creation from losing to the end boss of the original Bit Boy!!, and begins altering Kubi's world to his benefit so he can survive the second time around - effectively, not so much as breaking the fourth wall as hacking it to bits with a chainsaw. This unusual narrative allows for the game to take an interesting journey through actual game's programming - shaders, shapes, collision detection, animation rates, and so on - and allows gamers a glimpse into how a video game is actually put together. As players explore this world as Kubi, Bernd is rebuilding it, giving the game a blocky and simplistic look, yet making for a ton of character and charm rarely seen in other games. Both characters are fully voiced and done so quite well, although Kubi's deliberately demonic tone might not rest well with the young of heart.
Bit Boy!! Arcade is essentially a puzzler. The player is given a level within a themed group of five, and the task is to rescue all of Kubi's cuboid friends scattered about the level, and reach the exit that appears. In his way will be numerous obstacles, roaming monsters, and tiny Pixel Flies - dollar-like friendly creatures that are revived when ran over, and provide access to future levels upon collecting enough of them. Until he saves all of his friends in any given level, Kubi is almost entirely vulnerable; one hit from a dangerous obstacle or monster means an instant restart, but special switches in certain levels allow for defensive attacks.
The controls for actually moving Kubi are somewhat of a mixed bag. Left-handed players are ultimately given the priority due to the control mapping; D-pad or main buttons to move in four directions and the Circle Pad to rotate the camera. A right-handed player will have some difficulty in looking around the level if not willing to adapt to the button scheme, but either choice works well enough for what it has to do.
What doesn't turn out too well, however, is the actual structure of the levels; this being a strong irony for a game that goes out of its way to teach the player about world building. The objectives and how to go about doing them are clear enough, but the uncertain nature of just whether Kubi can hang off the side of a ledge when he couldn't hang off another, or the level timer that continues counting down a few more seconds even when the goal is hit, or the faceless identity of the monsters that makes it nearly impossible to see which way they're looking, become frustrating. Even endless corridors that waste valuable time, with no way of being able to tell beforehand, mean Bit Boy!! Arcade is indeed very challenging, but mostly for the wrong reasons.
Bit Boy!! Arcade's presentation outside of level structure is surprisingly good for a low budget downloadable. The 3D effect, in particular, is used to great effect, allowing for lower and higher strength settings and even a pop out effect, should the player so desire. The soundtrack is also a particular highlight, spinning a modern take onto retro-style bit-tunes; this is definitely one for headphones. The Arcade part of the title is even put into effect with the 3DS Play Coin system, only letting players continue after losing all their lives by paying two Play Coins. Bit Boy!! Arcade has trouble with the basics, but gives more than enough for buyers to lap up.
Bit Boy!! Arcade is a prime example of a game with a strong exterior held back by a rough interior; the core of the puzzling action becomes monotonous, but everything surrounding it is too full of charm and wonder that it makes the game difficult not to recommend. Games enthusiasts curious about the inner workings of titles like this need to check Biy Boy!! Arcade out. For regular puzzle fans, there are more considerable options on the eShop already.