Bonus Rounds are short, 5-minute musings on quirky titles that either end up hidden down the back of the sofa, or lost among the endless pile of Steam games and Bundles you own, but have never got around to playing. These could be reviews of PC, iOS or console games, Early Access titles, games made as part of a Game Jam, and so on. They’ll predominantly be games made by indie developers, and usually (but not always) published on a Sunday.
If you’re a seasoned (read: “old”) gamer like myself, you’ll remember a time when 2D platform games ruled supreme across home computers and consoles alike. Games like Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins and Konami’s Castlevania have delivered arguably some of the best, most addictive experiences in video gaming history.
Titles like Monty on the Run, Fire & Ice, and even the original Prince of Persia were simple to pick up, impossible to put down, and became notorious for their near-impossible levels of difficulty. Over two decades on and games like Super Meat Boy, They Bleed Pixels, VVVVVVV and now Electronic Super Joy have unashamedly borrowed heavily from that golden age of gaming, and the results are as fun and frustrating as the games that inspired them all those years ago.
Electronic Super Joy could be described as an extreme distillation of the retro 2D platformer. Its story is nonsense, its characters are basic black pixels and its level of difficulty has been cranked up to high. Add to this: incredibly tight controls, a strong amount of humour, and an electronic soundtrack to die for, and what you get is one of the best games of its genre to date.
2D platformers live or die by their controls. What’s required by the gamer is pixel-perfect running, double-jumping, and landing – get any of these wrong and it’s game over before it’s even begun. Fortunately, Electronic Super Joy absolutely nails the controls, providing precise movement and a character that will (I’m sorry to say) only die as a result of your lack of skill – not because of how it controls. And die you will – again, and again, and again. However, developer Michael Todd already knew this, and so to spur you on each time, when you do finally succumb you get a cheeky “ooooh yeah” delivered in a variety of fun and suggestive ways.
Electronic Super Joy won’t win any awards for presentation, it doesn’t need to. Games like these thrive on their simplicity. Gone is any clutter from pointless background decoration or superfluous animated distractions – it’s just you versus the game. The psychedelic backdrops are bright and fun and provide Electronic Super Joy with a unique look and identity. It would be remiss of me not to mention the amazing soundtrack, composed by ENVY – it’s a heady blend of EDM and electronica that combines with the visuals to deliver even more personality and charm.
Electronic Super Joy may be fairly short, but it throws everything it can at you. One stage may change the gravity strength, another may rotate the entire level, and some may even require you to fly. This constant variety coupled with optional targets such as: completing levels without dying (good luck with that), awards for beating the level time, and, collecting stars in-game to unlock hidden levels, means there’s plenty to aim for once the main story is done. A special shout out has to be made to the frustrating but ingenious bosses the Pope in particular is a blasphemous (it does warn you of this) joy to behold.
Sometimes solid gameplay and having fun are sacrificed on the altar of presentation. Other times they can be side-lined by a poorly told story. More often than not though, they are let down by developers over-reaching or not having a true understanding of what it is they’re trying to create. Electronic Super Joy effortlessly avoids all of these pitfalls, and its title says it all. It’s crammed with electronic music, it’s super difficult to beat, and it’s a joy to play. Should you pick this one up? Ooooh yeah.