Take one of Cartoon Network’s most adored series in recent years and task the talents of WayForward to conjure up a game tie-in for it, and you’d be left hoping for something truly special. Regrettably, what we’re left with is anything but that. Which is surprising considering that it was supposedly made in close collaboration with Regular Show creator JG Quintel, who also provided the storyline and concept. Not that there’s much of it beyond the game’s opening, either.
Ordered to mow the lawn by Benson, Mordecai and Rigby soon become distracted when a package is delivered to their doorstep which, rather ironically, houses the “BEST GAME EVER!” Fighting over who gets to play first they agree to take it in turns once they each lose a life, only to be sucked inside the game itself. The narrative ends there, with players left to fight their way through 8-Bit Land’s four worlds – grassy fields, a darkened cavern, a spooky mansion, and a construction site – as they look to help the Blue Jay and raccoon escape pixelated confinement.
Despite what the name suggests, 8-Bit Land’s retro-inspired visuals are more advanced than the game library that it draws inspiration from. That said, the levels within each world recycle the same assets meaning that they’re barely differentiated from one another, even if they’re accentuated through the stereoscopic 3D layering.
Gameplay is as equally a mixed bag, with concepts introduced across the opening three worlds before being merged throughout the fourth. Platforming elements see you switching between the game’s two protagonists – Mordecai jumping higher and able to flap his wings for what is effectively a double-jump, whilst Rigby’s shorter height allows him to crawl through smaller gaps. This could have lead to interesting level design, perhaps with puzzles sprinkled within, but it’s never fully exploited to test you in any shape or form.
Control imprecision leads to inevitable frustration, the player required to land directly on the top of an enemy’s head to take them out, which, in regular instances can lead to you mistiming your floaty jump, dying and being returned to your last checkpoint. The game’s only support item boosts your attacks – flying punches, laser guns, or shields – allowing you to take a second hit, but deaths can come so cheaply that it soon becomes a glaring annoyance.
8-Bit Land’s second world sees Mordecai given the ability to turn into a spaceship, narrow corridors mixed with control issues seeing it become increasingly awkward to dodge incoming shots from enemies lining your path. The spaceship controls far too loosely, lacking the tight responsiveness that would have elevated these portions.
World three sees Rigby take his turn, granted his own “top-down” ability. Whenever you leap toward grey walls (which sounds hardly specific but in-game it’ll make sense), hitting L or R will see Rigby change perspective, turning the game into an eight-direction shooter where you’ll take on new foes. Again, it’s the controls that let this down as well as a lack of imagination as to what can be achieved with such an idea.
Once all concepts are brought together in world four 8-Bit Land begins to show potential, although with poor execution it continues to frustrate at every turn. Add to that four dull bosses, and you’ve rounded off an uninteresting and aggravating experience that is as hard to recommend as it is to play through.
A gloriously thumping chiptune soundtrack is the game’s only saving grace, it’s just a shame that this isn’t matched by the gameplay content itself. Most players will easily secure the yellow cassette tape collectibles on their initial playthrough, unlocking music tracks and concept art hidden away in the options menu. Beyond that, this is a game that can be completed in mere hours, belying its retail release.
Whatever the issues it faced during development, this easily amounts to one of WayForward’s worst efforts over the years. Set to disappoint fans and newcomers alike, 8-Bit Land shows glimmers of potential but fails to capitalise on it in any commendable way.
Alex Seedhouse+ Alex's early adoration for Nintendo began with a Yellow Game Boy and a copy of Donkey Kong Land. This developed over the years, later peaking when he hid in his room to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time one Christmas. Nowadays, his enthusiasm is shared through Nintendo Insider, a place in which he can document his thoughts regarding the big N.