The independent video game industry offers a huge variety of experiences, but there are some genres that are much more exploited than others. Maybe it’s because of how accessible they are to programming or because they are intuitive formulas for players that don’t require too many tutorials, but los metroidvanias with retro graphics they stopped being a trend to be a very particular phenomenon. In the sea of indie options to enjoy the genre, this week has arrived B.I.O.T.A.the new work of Small Bros. Does it have elements that separate it from other experiences?
The title begins with a story worthy of an 80’s action movie, because much of its essence seeks to pay homage to a retro era where games were not characterized by graphics. A special forces team must travel to an asteroid to contain a threat that could destroy Earth.
Players can choose from different characters to take on this adventure, each with a unique main weapon and special weapon. Some soldiers are ideal for ranged attacks, while others rely much more heavily on explosives or close-range weapons with higher impact. Additionally, throughout the levels other protagonists can be added, such as a doctor who can heal and a fundamental robot to overcome a small segment of the game. Finishing the campaign also unlocks more characters for those interested in replayability.
BIOTA does not have too many explanations of its controls because they are quite intuitive. The title also features classic mechanics from other metroidvanias and platformers, such as wall jumps, which allows us to take action instantly. To prolong this feeling, the game also has a dedicated quick save button, which allows you not only to save your game at almost any time, but also to return to the action almost instantly when you die.
Navigation through the different scenarios and biomes is done with the map, which reveals areas when we visit them. In order to advance to all the bosses and beat the campaign it is necessary to go through the map in a certain order, obtaining keys and activating switches for doors that block the way. Along the way there are also stores that allow you to improve the life and ammunition of all the characters, as well as obtain improvements, keys or specific items to advance in the campaign.
If these descriptions of BIOTA’s mechanics are applicable to dozens of other video games, it’s because the Small Bros title doesn’t innovate too much on that side. The action is frenetic and some particular scenarios force you to try again and again to survive, although without unfair enemies or a devilish difficulty.
BIOTA does have some interesting segments featuring vehicles, such as spaceships, submarines or robots, which have a very different rhythm and sometimes even change the camera’s perspective, turning it into another game for a while. This is a feeling similar to the one generated by Cyber Shadow last yearalbeit without its elaborate pixelart.
Instead, the unique feature that BIOTA introduces is its palette modifier. Throughout the adventure, players come across specimens that they must collect to better understand this threat that may come to Earth. Apart from the fact that these are items that will determine which of the two possible endings are obtained, they also unlock different color palettes to experiment with. In total there are more than 50 palettes of four colors and each one refers to specific eras or titles of gaming.
It is a more than interesting mechanic, which manages to change the aesthetics of the game from one moment to another without transitions or loading screens. The only drawback is that some of these palettes can be a bit tiring to look at, but the variety is so wide that it is practically impossible to get bored of this section.
I had the chance to test BIOTA on an ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED notebook provided by the folks at AMD and I can’t think of a better screen to see the color palettes than a Pantone Validated. Although it is not a video game that requires a powerful PC behind it, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor with its Zen 3 architecture allowed for an uninterrupted gaming experience, something that goes hand in hand with BIOTA and its frenetic action. In addition, the ability to configure game-specific profiles made it possible to take full advantage of the machine’s features without sacrificing image quality or raising the volume of the fans.
Beyond the color palettes and enemy-laden vehicle segments, BIOTA doesn’t have much else to set it apart from other metroidvanias. Fortunately, it is not necessary for each new video game to revolutionize some aspect or mechanic with its gameplay. As well as Infernax a few months ago, BIOTA is an ideal title for those who want to relive the nostalgia of 8-bit titles, but without their cumbersome mechanics, their primitive save systems or the limitations of the technology at the time.
With BIOTA and its previous title, Ghostly Matter, the Small Bros studio showed that they are fans of retrogaming and that they know how to elevate some of the formulas that have been exploited for decades. In both cases they managed to innovate with new and more than interesting elements while presenting highly polished adventures with a fairly modern rhythm. Without being wonderful, they are experiences of a couple of hours of duration ideal to cut between open world titles of hundreds of hours and games as a service that demand even more.