A platformer dressed in a retro design is what upcoming developer Small Bros are offering with B.I.O.T.A. Specifically, it’s a Metroidvania action-platformer with stylized pixel art where you take control of a mercenary group as it investigates an unknown area and faces the dangers within. The merc’s mission is to save their colleagues who ventured into this murky mining colony while fighting an alien infestation.
Looking at B.I.O.T.A‘s trailer and visuals, one may think, “Is this something I’ve seen before?” Unfortunately, the answer is yes. B.I.O.T.A. is similar in feel to other mobile app platformers (or console shovelware) that I’ve played numerous times before. There’s really nothing innovative about it.
You control a group of four mercenaries at the beginning of B.I.O.T.A, each of which uses a different loadout and has different special abilities. Later on, after saving the other mercenaries, the roster increases to eight. Again, this isn’t anything new. I have seen many 2D platformers use the same shtick.
While I get that the mercenaries have their own play styles which are reflected in them having their own gun and special abilities (you can get more abilities via upgrades), it would have been better to have a customizable single character with all those guns and specials instead. I mean, it’s not like the mercenaries have different health bars and damage reduction. Yeah, the way the characters look may be different, but the non-cosmetic differences are so trivial that customizable clothes could have been the solution.
I get that the story has to make sense, and having eight playable characters helps this, but having choice only works when you can easily switch between them. The checkpoint system in B.I.O.T.A allows you to save at any time; which is brilliant. What it doesn’t do is let you change your character mid-game. This applies even when you die. The only way to switch to another mercenary is from your base and to get there you need to head back to the very start and then find your way back to where you were up to and pick up from there. It’s a real pain when you feel like you’ve ventured really far, but a certain gun-type or special ability that you don’t have available, (because it’s on a different character,) can get you further.
Another one of my gripes with B.I.O.T.A. is the pixel art style. Now hear me out here. I adore pixelated art, and I’m a sucker for being given the ability to choose from 54 unique color palettes. The issue is that some of the hazards in the game are really difficult to spot because they blend in with the environment. As an example, there are hazards where fire (or something hot) comes out of vents intermittently. I suffered far too many game-overs because I couldn’t see where these hazards were. There are also barrels that can be set on fire, but those aren’t hazardous at all. It just gets all confusing.
What B.I.O.T.A. does right is giving you an arcade mode. Here you can take a break from the main story and focus on the better parts of the gameplay. For example, there’s a special ability that allows you to snipe via controlling a crosshair, and that’s fun. One of the arcade modes focuses on this gameplay exclusively. There’s also a mode where you can take control of a spaceship and chase other starships like a demake of a Starfox game. That’s also really enjoyable.
In B.I.O.T.A, you’re going to have to take the rough with the smooth. There are some really good gameplay aspects, but they are mostly tied up in minigames. Unfortunately, the bulk of the main game is just mediocre at best.
Explore an Infested Alien Colony to Save the Crew
+ Good minigames in-game and in arcade mode
– Mediocre pixel action platformer – Choices in gameplay elements are not thought-out well