Narita Boy is an indie action platformer developed by Studio Koba and published by Team17. As soon as you turn on Narita Boy, the phenomenal presentation and art direction establishes itself as a one-of-a-kind experience. The game’s visuals are made up of a modern pixel art style, not to be confused with retro-style bit graphics. As opposed to the limited palettes and capabilities of retro graphics, the pixel art here is unconstrained. It makes excellent use of a wide and varied color palette to set a unique atmosphere and visual identity for every new area or scene. Every animation in the game is fluid, and it makes the world feel charming and alive.
The music, sound effects, and sound design always perfectly matched and enhanced the atmosphere of the entire game. Although, I do have one major grievance with the game: its overwhelming lighting effects. I don’t suffer from any light sensitivity and have never had problems with visuals in the past, but I had my fair share of eye-straining, squinting, and headaches playing this game. Despite the in-game warning about the light sensitivity, the effects seem excessive and unnecessary. There were many moments when I looked away or closed my eyes till the bright flashing stopped.
The gameplay of Narita Boy is top-notch for a multitude of reasons, such as intuitive controls, and a fast pace. The controls are responsive, intuitive, and accessible to a variety of players. I’m not particularly skilled with platformers, but Narita Boy never punishes failure. The controls have a subtle balance of being easy to pick up for beginners and offering complex strategy for players who seek it. The game slowly introduces your combat abilities over the course of the first hour of gameplay and you always get plenty of space to learn every new gameplay aspect they introduce. However, the combat can be pretty lackluster, letting you get by with blind button mashing fairly often. There is also little strategy required and many if the enemies don’t have fun or memorable fights. You do get more abilities, but all these do is make things easier than they were before. The gameplay gets slowly harder as you go, but not by much so don’t expect much of a challenge. On the platforming side, there is a bit of floatiness to the controls that can be frustrating. In my experience, the weight of jumping just took a little practice and they felt like second nature. Overall,while the controls aren’t perfect they are fun and worth the slight learning curve.
There is much more to this game than just enjoyable gameplay and pretty art, the storytelling is captivating. The start of the game has a lot of characters and dialogue being thrown at you all at once, but after the introduction, the story starts to be told at a nice pace. The narrative being told here isn’t just being told with the dialogue and writing; it’s told through its art and gameplay as well. The storytelling rarely gets in the way of playing the game or disrupts its pacing. There are very few cutscenes where you have no control, you usually learn what is going on as you play. Besides the start of the game, there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue or walls of text shoved in your face. Instead, Narita Boy opts to show you or let you play the story it is telling, and it does so fantastically.
Narita Boy is a fun, interesting, and beautiful experience. In total it takes about 10-15 hours to beat, and while that may seem short it’s a good time from start to finish. It’s not perfect, the combat is a bit bland, and if you have any light sensitivity I highly recommend you avoid this game. There were definitely a handful of times where the lighting was too much and I had to close my eyes or look away. The pixel art is beautiful, the music is atmospheric, and the story is interesting. The controls are intuitive, and the combat is fun even if it’s not the most interesting or challenging. No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, Narita Boy manages to be both one of a kind, classic fun, and an artful experience. It is well worth taking the time to play through and beat it at least once.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Steam