What better way to start this new set of Versus than to compare two games that have Dwarves! (Well… 8BitBoy’s character is just short, but I’ll take what I can get eh?) First up, we’ve got The Dwarves by KING Art Games, a game based off of a book I’m fairly sure I’m spoiling for myself. Secondly we’ve got 8BitBoy by AwesomeBlade, which is a game based off nostalgia. The Dwarves is an adventure of epic proportions across a vast land with some fairly difficult fights ahead of you that allows you to pause and adjust combat choices on the fly. 8BitBoy is a 2D platformer that spans quite a few levels with some very tricky hidden things to find and attain… and for comparison, allows you to pause and ponder why it is you just jumped off that edge without planning ahead and then contemplate your demise. Let’s break these games down shall we?
Let’s do a size comparison first. One might simply assume that an RPG would have a larger world than a simple platformer and for the most part, you would be correct. However, there is always an exception to the rule. I’d say they both feel about as big as each other. The Dwarves world is presented to you as a world map and you move about as a miniature figure of a Dwarf. You move from one circle to another, one at a time. Others, be they bad guys or merchants, move along with you and only when you move. This helps you to either avoid unwanted trouble or get into it more, whichever you find yourself wanting. This does create a small world effect since you aren’t actively traversing the space yourself. I’ve looked negatively on this before with Wasteland 2 and the first Blackguards and I still say this isn’t my favorite method of doing things. However, it is done much better here than I’ve seen elsewhere and I’ll get into that later.
8BitBoy is a platformer so you will get what you get in small doses. There are five worlds composed of 56 levels. Stating it has “56 big levels + 5 huge worlds” seems a bit misleading to me, but I digress. The levels themselves are big for a platformer, but not horrendously large (some make me wish they had halfway points though). It’s also up to how much you want to experience it. There are no achievements for 8BitBoy so collecting everything doesn’t really pay out in any sort of way unless you are a hardcore completionist. I am not. I can get caught up in wanting all of the coins because that’s what you did with Mario back in the day, but here, 100 coins gives you a chance at a power up and a very slim chance of an extra life. I’ve found myself often saying “screw this/that coin” and just making it to the end of the level.
On that same note, without any form of real bonus, I don’t feel satisfied by accomplishing much in 8BitBoy. The rewards are simply too small for me to give a crap about. Simply completing the levels tends to be enough of a reward because that means I can leave it behind, never having to return. In The Dwarves, however, not only are their frivolous achievements for certain choices you make, but the levels themselves are very action packed and cinematic. There’s more going on with multiple paths, runners who will get reinforcements if you don’t kill them, general pain-in-the-butt archers and you gain experience at the end that will help you level up and attain more moves with which to kill the baddies. Also, you’ll want to explore everything on the map simply to get more of the story via the narration which is voiced fantastically! (Much like the rest of the game.) Just make sure you pack enough provisions for all the people in your party.
Speaking of the voices…. Wow, just Wow! They are great and even the weirder characters like the acting troupe that eventually follows you are all very well done as well. The bad guys sound evil, and the good guys are mostly Dwarves and they’ve all got your typical Scottish accent so, well… I’m loving it! They add to the already great narrator that accompanies you throughout the map giving you more of the lore, stories and inner thoughts of the characters as you travel the lands. It’s amazing… and worlds over 8BitBoy with no voice over work at all. Did I expect any? No. However, it’s still a glaring difference that really sets these two apart since it really does help carry The Dwarves’ plot along. 8BitBoy has a plot as well, but other than the beginning, you don’t get anymore information about why you’re in the 8-bit world running around jumping birds.
Speaking of reasons to follow the plot, 8BitBoy set up a pretty interesting story that I was really, surprisingly, interested in. It reads like a story a generic gamer would write about getting sucked into a videogame, but now it actually got made into a videogame. I didn’t expect it actually and I even joked (to myself) about there being a book to read before the game started. However, like I said before, the plot isn’t really mentioned again. So much so that it was lost on me and I didn’t care if it was ruined so I looked up the ending of it before I got to it myself. *SPOILER ALERT* So if you don’t collect everything, you don’t get the “real/complete” ending, but the ending that says you have more work to do. Whatever. Personally, it’s not worth it to me to get this to 100% status. It would not be worth working through the “finding all the hidden areas” and collecting all of the stupid coins. I don’t really remember platformers being all that difficult back in the day except for Battle Toads, Ghosts and Goblins and the first Ninja Turtles game (all for the NES). This game was developed to have that kind of frustrating difficulty levels at times and that’s not fun for me for extended periods of time. (There are no Kaizo Blocks here though, but there are some that are close enough to make you swear.)
The Dwarves regale you with an unfolding story about a lone Dwarf, raised by humans who starts out on an adventure to deliver goods to one of his friend’s acquaintances. That’s not all that interesting, but a story has to start somewhere. From there, Tungdil meats up with other Dwarves and the adventure to stop the Perished Lands from taking over the world. Basically, evil Elves (Alfar) teamed up with Greenskins, ***Weak Spoiler Alert That You’ll See Coming*** an ugly wizard and possible deamons (I’m not there yet) to create… zombies? It’s kind of a downhill slope where things goes from bad to worse, but like a good book, I just need to keep playing to find out more. I’m even going to pick up all of the books now that I’ve had a taste for the world and story this universe has to offer. Will that spoil possible other games? Yes… and I can live with that if they keep being this good!
The last thing I want to harp on are the controls. For the most part, both games are made well. I’ve got a bit of an issue with The Dwarves and friendly fire being on because I’ve misclicked a few times and killed a teammate. I’ve also not misclicked at times and had a teammate move in front of a weapon. Both are equally frustrating, but that’s the whole point of having so many enemies and the ability to pause and readjust your party whenever you want. It’s also why I tend to stick with people who can jump or dash out of bad situations. The camera is the worst offender here though. There are places with bad angles that shouldn’t be, but are. The issue is that the angle isn’t inherently bad, but most of the time you can zoom out and then these times come up where you can’t for some reason (game wall?) and it makes clicking and seeing the battlefield difficult. 8BitBoy has some funky “bits” (we’ll call them due to the lack of a proper word) where you’ll jump through certain blocks at times and you’ll break them every other time. This will kill you (infinite restarts so… whatever, but it can kill motivation). There are certain jump puzzles that had me wanting to throw my controller. This, I’m sure, was designed that way. Some people complain about the physics, I’m fairly sure it was designed this way too. Newer “retro” platformers are designed to be more difficult, but I still feel this is an “artificial” difficulty instead of being well designed.