Retrogaming – the act of playing and appreciating classic titles from video gaming’s nascent years – has become a subculture unto itself over the past twelve or so years. Its popularity grows every day, and countless websites and discussion boards dedicated to retrogaming provide avid retrogamers a place to discuss some of their favorite titles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The rise of pixel art in independently-made titles has also helped spur the popularity of old-school gaming, in a way that connects us back to our childhood selves as we’ve grown up over the years.
That same pixel art often often arouses derision from certain gamers, who see the aesthetic as an easy and hip way to make an independent game. And sometimes, the deluge of faux-8 bit games crowding Steam’s Greenlight platform seem to lend that accusation some weight. Yet there exist developers who devote so much time and love to creating retro experiences that they redefine the conventions of the genre (see: Undertale). In other cases, they even improve upon classic source material.
Independent Spanish developer Locomalito is one of those developers. His new game, The Curse of Issyos, blends classic 8-bit titles like Castlevania, Rygar, and Ninja Gaiden with Don Chaffrey and Ray Harryhausen’s 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts to create a nexus of nostalgia, which evokes the stop-motion animation of the latter while retaining the gameplay of the former titles.
Issyos’ plot is something you’d find out of an old NES game manual: a fisherman named Defkalion has been told by the goddess Athena that his home island of Issyos has been cursed by the gods of Olympus. Fearing for the safety of his daughter, Defkalion rushes back home to find that she has been kidnapped by Hades. He then sets off on a journey to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the Underworld.
You can check out the trailer for the game below:
Locomalito wishes to bring fans a pure classic gaming experience with Issyos.
The Curse of Issyos is a retro styled action platformer with nothing but the usual in an old 8 bit game: a bunch of enemies and bosses, both straight and exploration levels, some secrets to discover and a background story of Greek myths.
He clarifies that Issyos doesn’t attempt to mimic a particular 8-bit game or retro system, but aims to be consistent with all of the technical limitations of a late 80s or early 90s video game. Locomalito’s primary tools are his trusty notepad and Gamemaker, though he also uses Iconomaker to design his animations and graphics. The music, which was composed by Spanish chiptune artist Gryzor87, was borne from an editing program called PxTone, itself developed by Cave Story creator Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya.
When he makes a game, Locomalito draws upon what he calls the “golden age of arcade rooms in Spain” that absorbed his childhood. Classic mythology also informs Locomalito’s work. Issyos, for example, was partly made out of his childhood love for Greek mythology. His 2012 project Maldita Castilla is influenced both by 16-bit games, like Ghosts n’ Goblins and Shinobi, and a Spanish chivalric romance titled Amadis de Gaula. Locomalito’s approach to making games is simple.
Locomalito outlines his mantra as: “A few resources, focus and desire: no more is needed to make a game.” He adheres to a minimalist philosophy when designing his games, which are meant to be beatable in one playing session, offer one challenging difficulty level, present an easy-to-understand scoring system, and contain plenty of secrets and references to other classic games.
And his efforts show. Both Issyos and Maldita Castilla look and feel strikingly similar to their old-school counterparts. Yet they manage to feel more fluid and even more enjoyable to play, while retaining all of challenge and technical blemishes that make those game so endearing.
Locomalito also adds his own touches to his retro-styled creations. He releases all of his games as freeware, and he believes that pixel art and chiptunes have both attained the status of legitimate artforms when it comes to making games. His games also come with extras, like box art and manuals. To Locomalito, games are not just pieces of software. They encompass a series of rituals, which include unboxing the game and learning about the game by reading its manual. By including these external pieces (which can be downloaded on each game’s page), Locomalito’s games allow players to immerse themselves in a gaming session as they were experienced back in the olden days. You can check out Issyos’ manual here.
Being a busy man, Locomalito sees his games as side-projects. Those interested in supporting his projects can donate to them by visiting his page here.
The Curse of Issyos is available for play on Windows systems. You can download the game by scrolling to the bottom of this page.