REVIEW: Narita Boy

Apr
05

REVIEW: Narita Boy

Although it has problems in the starting area, Narita Boy proves to be an enjoyable game with its combat.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Studio Koba
Publisher: Team17
Release date: 30 Mar, 2021

Intro

Narita Boy tries to emulate the look of retro games while combining modern elements at the same time. It is a platformer game that will make you think as if you are playing a retro game while not playing it, with combat and puzzle as its focus.

Graphics

The game tries to emulate the look of CRT displays, but instead of presenting the screen with scan lines, it uses a blur effect instead, making it hard to appreciate the detailed pixel art behind the filter. The game offers an option to disable the said filter, although it only changed the display into a flat-screen instead of a curved one with a slightly reduced blur. Some tutorials are hard to notice because of this, especially since buildings tend to have a similar color to the grey-colored button.

The visuals also make it hard to distinguish between walkable and dummy platforms – both look similar apart from a white-ish line that is added on top of it. Although I noticed the difference eventually, some areas are also not very clear when it comes to hazards and platforms. Fortunately, it is only happening in the first area with its blue-colored theme.

Some exits are not obvious enough. I have to jump a bit to access the exit.

Story

Dialogues tend to give more information than necessary. Everything that you need to do will be told right after you enter a new area, giving too much information to process. Moreover, characters tend to mix their dialogue with coding terms – people who have little understanding of the subject will need more time to process the dialogues. Luckily, the game offers a shorter, more concise version of the dialogue from the objective list so you don’t have to worry about not understanding them.

Another story tells about what was happening before the game starts. However, the writing is too bland to my taste, and the weird ending doesn’t help either. It seems to be made that way to leave room for a sequel, but I’m not sure if I’m interested in the continuation at this point.

The Game

Exploration

Exploration is mostly linear with minimal backtracking as long as you know where to go next. However, some platforms tend to be very small or far from each other, making them hard to reach with the character’s fast walking speed. The lack of power-ups to control your landing also prove to be problematic at the beginning of the game. Fortunately, the game is more focused on combat later on, and the power-ups that you’ll learn as you progress the game can help you to pass through these areas quickly.

Combat

Despite some problems, the game does a wonderful job in this aspect. The fast movement speed turns to be more suitable in combat although controls need some improvement – it is easy to press the wrong button by accident with the current setup. Some skills are also tricky to execute, making it hard to finish some enemies.

Some areas will lock you out, forcing you to defeat hordes of enemies before you can proceed. Your skill will be tested since the game is quite stingy on heals – you can only heal after you hit the enemy a lot of times, and trust me, you can’t exploit the healing system to get out of this. Enemies are varied and come in waves, with some being more annoying than others. You need to prioritize which enemy to kill, all while making sure that you dodge their attacks in the limited area.

The combat is smooth despite some annoyances.

Bosses have varying attacks that you have to dodge properly. One of them is also clever enough to take advantage of your newly learned skill to beat. However, they tend to be repetitive with their bulky HP and different phases, which doesn’t mean much since it usually just becomes faster. This turns the final boss to be a punching bag with its bulky HP and little variation of new attacks – you can even tank the said attack as long as you avoid the rest of its attacks.

Puzzles

The game offers puzzles in the form of hidden objects. Colored symbols will appear in the previously explored areas, which you must take note of somewhere outside the game, to unlock a new area. The symbols are not that hard to find as long as you are attentive enough although the symbols for secret areas are more tricky with their subtle hints and placement.

You need to remember symbols from the previously explored areas to unlock new areas.

Length and Difficulty

I finished the game for the first time in 8.6h. The game doesn’t support backtracking so I had to replay the game to find secrets that I missed. I had more difficulty navigating the area at first, especially since the tutorial isn’t so intuitive. The J button in the tutorial looks like a clockwise button and it was hard to figure out where to go next due to how platforms are designed.

The difficulty is shifted to combat after I understood how the platforming works. Some areas are challenging to clear because of the enemy variation – some even more difficult than bosses due to the enemies’ composition. However, some enemies have too many HP, making them boring to beat in my second playthrough.

Problems

The game has a weird respawn system. Instead of respawning on the same screen where you died, the game will respawn you at the latest checkpoint. It can be problematic when you are exploring secrets, especially if you die far from the checkpoint. The first area also has too many “pixel-perfect” exits where you have to stand on a specific spot just to exit the area.

Specs

Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650

Verdict

Despite the promising look, it proves to be problematic at the start. It’s hard to know where to go next due to how walkable platforms are designed and the decision not to allow your character to move to the next screen because you are not standing in the right spot – even though you’re on the edge of the screen – also becomes an annoyance. More and more problems keep on appearing and I wasn’t having fun in the first few hours.

Everything changed after I moved to a new area. Some problems are fixed while others become more bearable. The new power-ups also help to ease the problematic platforming elements while increasing the variance in combat. Although some skills tend to be hard to execute with its button placement, it’s still possible to finish the fight with basic dodge and attack. New enemies and bosses also keep on appearing to make the game more lively – it proves to be an enjoyable game in the end despite its odd design choices.

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