8-Bit Adventures 2 Review
Everything Old Is New Again
The tricky aspect with appealing to nostalgia is finding the line between an homage to the classics and creating something different to add to the genre. Critical Games’ 8-Bit Adventures 2 successfully finds this line by blending quality-of-life aspects with an enjoyable turn-based combat system while following a beacon of heart and charm. Its colourful visuals and throwback music come with a truly heartwarming story highlighting themes of personal growth. Every character has touches of realism in expressing their emotions, making them easy to connect with, causing the journey to be a blast to experience.
8-Bit Adventures 2 is a direct sequel that takes place two years after the end of the first game, with the world still reeling from its near destruction at the hands of the Dust, which infected the benevolent Computer that controls the world. However, new players are readily brought up to speed on all of the important events, characters, and details, which are integrated into the sequel’s story. 8-Bit Adventures 2 features an ensemble cast, but the story revolves around the new heart of the team, Charlie. Charlie is an orphan in Pheopolis who was protected by the Thief from the first game — with all of the returning class-based characters able to be freely named by the player — during his childhood. The Thief returns to Pheopolis to ask the queen a favour of a ship to search for the Warrior, who has gone missing. Upon joining the Thief, Charlie is thrown into a whirlwind of events that leads to the eventual meeting of the Glitch. The Glitch is a confused being that raves about mistreatment by the Computer and just wants to find a way to live. This relates to the central theme of the game, in which all of the characters look within themselves for personal growth in how to overcome their fears. The story is able to take all these characters from different fantasy and sci-fi backgrounds and tie them together with heartwarming and gripping moments that all wrap together in a very satisfying manner.
Since the Computer is a sci-fi entity that created the fantasy world the characters live in, there is a lot of mixing of thematic elements that occurs. As a result 8-Bit Adventures 2 is filled with an intriguing mix of magic, technology, oddities, and monsters that all nevertheless manage to fit within its world. Holding everything together is the relatability of the cast and how well its members work within the core themes of overcoming fears and the sense of self. This relatability shines in making every cast member someone worth investing in, and that time is rewarded with plenty of enjoyable moments throughout the story. The individualistic philosophy of the self permeates through the history of each dungeon and town as well; minor NPCs are given story arcs that provide depth and meaning to their journeys and the world around them. Most of these arcs are self-contained and completed as players move on to the next area, but updates to them can be found as the main story develops. The one complaint that can be levelled against the world-building is a lack of naming consistency; traditional English names for characters such as Charlie or Emma strike at odds against place names such as Anbu, Niveus, and Pheopolis. Luckily, this doesn’t last very long as every character feels real, and it is through their journeys that the story shines.
Locations never feel bloated, with plenty of places to explore and enjoy within the forty-hour journey. Encounters are shown on the map and when they spot the player, will run at them, even if they are busy opening a treasure chest. This can lead to some inescapable encounters, thankfully there aren’t so many per dungeon that it makes exploration difficult to enjoy. Layouts are simple with side routes strewn with additional enemies and treasure, while the path forward is marked by convenient save points before bosses. Going out of one’s way to find treasure is useful as the accessories among them are often vital game changers against that dungeon’s boss fight. Treasure chests also provide augments that have various functions including adding debuffs to attacks, major stat boosts, or automatic buff casts.
8-Bit Adventures 2 allows for players to save anywhere, but includes Save Point as an additional companion character. A snarky commentator, it pops up before upcoming boss areas with a helpful reminder for players to save the game. Other than occasional comments about the dungeon, Save Point also allows players to refresh the enemies found in the dungeon and gives helpful hints about how to deal with the upcoming boss.
Combat in 8-Bit Adventures 2 is traditional turn-based fare, with the character order on the right, with small party sprites on the bottom facing the much larger enemy designs, complete with a bar-graph to designate their remaining strength, and a menu-driven command interface. Up to five enemies can be fought at once, with players having access to three members of their party at a time. There are seven usable characters in total with a swap command to freely allow movement to bring anyone in. Many enemies have various weaknesses that can be exploited by swapping to create fun and varied combinations. Each character’s special abilities use either action points (AP) or magic points (MP) depending on if the character uses physical or magic attacks. These abilities cost enough to prevent players from simply spamming them, but eventually enough consumables become available that regular attacks are rarely needed except to save AP/MP. Abilities give new dimension to each of the characters allowing them to fill in as a combination of roles, preventing any from feeling stagnant or underutilized.
Every member of the party also has a secondary skill that is unique to them. For example, the Thief can steal, the Warrior can bash enemies that when successful stuns them for a turn, and Charlie can half his strength to strike two different foes. Every skill has its moments of usefulness that lasts throughout the game. There’s also a bar at the bottom of the screen that allows characters to use a special Omega Burst when filled. These are powerful attacks, or in one instance an alternate form that boosts stats greatly, and each comes with an appropriate visual flourish. Other commands include defend, which certainly comes in handy in the early game, while item use is primarily for healing. Certain combinations of characters have access to combo and trio attacks. These attacks take up only one turn but drain AP/MP of all members involved in the attack. Players need to track down Trio attacks to learn them, but their strength and impressive accompanying animations make them worthwhile. Some abilities quickly outgrow their usefulness as stand outs become prevalent, but swapping between characters and exploring various ways to combine abilities prevents combat from feeling stagnant.
8-Bit Adventures 2 is a vibrant game, with the colours of each character, town, dungeon, and enemy popping out. It adds a level of charm, combining nostalgia with a sense of a deft hand at work to make everything distinct. Some enemy designs are re-purposed but are more for thematic use than retreads for new areas. 8-Bit Adventures 2 really hammers home the nostalgic feel with the soundtrack, as each theme has an old school charm that listeners can spot pronounced differences in. Some of the sounds do fall on the harsher end of the spectrum, which causes an unintentional tenseness with a high volume. The Glitch has a unique laugh that is incredibly memorable and captures the character’s essence perfectly.
8-Bit Adventures 2 deftly finds a way to combine nostalgic charm and heart in a manner to make everything feel alive. Combat never outstays its welcome and vibrant visuals combine with old-school music to create unforgettable moments on their own. The real heart of the game lies with the character work and depth to its story. These are characters that feel important and matter to the world around them, as every action is taken with purpose. There is a great adventure built on the foundations of the past that harnesses a story so full of personality that it stands alongside classics of the genre.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Combat is full of charm
Every character has a purpose and fun story arc
Soundtrack can have occasional jarring moments
Names of characters feel at odds with the setting