You miss the cool pixel arts and the aesthetics of retro games back in the 90s, especially in the Game Boy era? There’s a high chance that you would have a field day with B.I.O.T.A. The game is a 2D Metroidvania action-platformer that is perfect for a fun, bite-sized experience with a retro style that evokes the era of Game Boy games. It mixes the charm of retro games (including two-pixel breathing animations) with the modern-day convenience of full controller support, quick saves, customizing the visuals at any time, and a soundtrack so chippy that you’ll want to record a cassette mixtape and listen to it on your Walkman.
B.I.O.T.A. takes place in the 22nd century when humankind mastered interstellar travel that allowed them to expand more and then eventually find viridium, a fuel source of space travel. Until one day, all communication between mining colonies was cut off so a team was dispatched to unravel what happened and eradicate the threats.
B.I.O.T.A. offers the players 8 playable characters to unlock, upgrade and choose from. Each comes with its unique abilities and starting weapon. Initially, you start with 4 members of the Gemini II Squad – Zeed, Ace, Kirill, and Flynt. Unfortunately with a diverse squad of characters, I feel that they aren’t distinct enough between each of them even with each of them having their special ability. For most of the game, you probably will stick with one or two characters.
The game doesn’t begin until you pick out a character and descend the elevator to enter the mining colony. Levels are composed of individual rooms in a larger, slowly-uncovered map, and using the viridium taken from slain enemies to buy items found in the hidden black market stalls in the colony helps progression. It’s an average Metroidvania gameplay loop, but exploring the base is a lot of fun, and slowly upgrading the squad and unlocking new routes. Like the characters, each stage has its type of environment depending on how deep you are in the colony, looks visually stunning, and has its gimmicks along the way and different types of enemies.
Gameplay-wise, B.I.O.T.A. has your usual movement with the addition of wall-kicking and double jumping. The weird-ish control is the shooting itself, normally you shoot mainly with your mouse left click but in B.I.O.T.A. it defaults to N. It’s not that bad since it’s closer to your movements which makes it easier to play but just needs some time to get used to.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room which is B.I.O.T.A.‘s settings combined with its synthwave aesthetics and color scheme that makes stand out from the rest of the Metroidvania’s. Visually, B.I.O.T.A is super stylish and has a total of 54 unique 4-color palettes to unlock. You can swap between any of them anytime during the game to completely change the game’s 8-bits visuals. Another aspect that elevates the game is its crispy sound design, the sound of your guns, enemies, or just background noises is just fitting and has that future vibe in them.
While the synthwave aesthetics and color scheme in B.I.O.T.A. bring back a lot of nostalgia and let the game stand out in today’s market, it also has its shortcomings. Despite there being 54 unique 4-color palettes, some are too bright and make it extremely hard to play. While others are muted, which doesn’t help either since the text font and size are horrible to look at so sometimes it’s just really hard to read whatever is displayed.
On the topic of text, the writing of the game is kind of vague, really incoherent from time to time and somewhat lack lusting as well which has a part in dialogues being rather dry. To be honest, you don’t miss much if you happen to skip any of the dialogues. But the campaign actually wasn’t that bad and somewhat gives the players some sort of immersion and a trip back in memory lane, the other thing that caught me off guard is B.I.O.T.A.‘s 2 endings and the extra mode: arcade that serves as a way for you to pick out the level you want to go back to and find the secrets which make up for the short campaign and let you control a submarine, destroy enemies in a powerful mech and chase starships in outer space.
I love B.I.O.T.A. with the time I have in it right now but the thing that always bugs me about the game is the vehicle sections and their poor timings. The vehicles serve as like some sort of paddings that help the game with variety, but they always outstay their welcome. Play in a mech, a vertical scrolling starship, a submarine, a gun turret, and a ‘freefalling’ rope section is nice and provides some breaks between the continuous shootings but they drag out too long and become repetitive after the first few minutes.
To be clear, I love B.I.O.T.A., its looks, the nostalgia it brings back, etc. With about 12 hours in it, I find it enjoyable that’s perfect for some short plays here and there. I also love the fact of the developers going back to the OG gaming roots and trying to resurrect it. B.I.O.T.A. proves that a game like itself can be fresh and offers a decent amount of replayability.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on PC