I always find it difficult to review remakes of classic games.
This is mostly due to the amount of trouble it can cause when you judge something that many people loved years ago, but you’ve never played before. I absolutely love choose-your-own-adventure books as well as point-and-clicks games, so when I saw what 8-Bit Adventure Anthology Volume 1 had to offer, I jumped at the opportunity to give it a shot. I was met with a lot of things that I expected — like 8-bit graphics and fun soundtracks — along with some things I had not, such as extreme difficulty and cumbersome controls. If you loved the point-and-click genre in the 80s and 90s, it’s a must-have. If you didn't... well, prepare for a few heaping spoonfuls of salty rage.
8-Bit Adventure Anthology features three adventure games, The Uninvited, Deja Vu, and Shadowgate, all of which were created between 1987—1991 and were available on the NES. Each game features graphics and music that you'd expect from that era, along with difficult puzzles and cumbersome controls. Despite their similarities though, all three games are completely unique from one another.
In The Uninvited, you awake after a car crash and find your sister has gone missing. After you escape your car you discover that you’ve crashed right in front of a mansion and part of you is drawn to it.
In Deja Vu, you wake up in a bathroom having absolutely no idea who you are or how you ended up there. You leave the bathroom after picking up a gun that had been in the room with you. Not long after stumbling around you find a body with three bullet wounds and your gun is missing three bullets. What on Earth happened?
Finally, in Shadowgate, you enter a castle that was once brilliant but is now a dark ruin. You are the “Seed of Prophecy” and the fate of the world rests in your hands. Nothing too heavy, then.
Each game in the anthology only takes about an hour to complete — well, providing you don’t get stuck every four or five moves like I did. Each game plays out much like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but a bit more complicated. Rather than making one or two choices on every few pages, you have to make many choices on each screen you come across. Sometimes you can take your time and sometimes your speed (or lack thereof) will get you killed. By clicking around from screen to screen you're able to explore different areas of each adventure, picking up items and solving puzzles using those items until you either die or complete the game.
The stories for each game are extremely well written. At times, I couldn't help but wish that each game was a visual novel rather than a point-and-click so that I could just get lost in the narrative. Deja Vu ended up being my favourite, but each title has its own unique plot that will have you questioning where you’ve been, where you should go, who to trust, and whether you should pick up every possible item in the entire game just in case — and trust me, you can.
I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot of replay value in 8-Bit Adventure Anthology because once you solve the extremely difficult riddles and puzzles, there isn’t much left to do — well, other than attempt to die in every way possible, and yes, there are trophies to collect for doing so. Some are quite funny so I recommend trying a few different deaths, even if you're not an achievement hunter.
Even with the the lack of replayability, though, the game is still well worth its price of $7.99 — even if it's just to play with your friends after you’ve beaten it and watch them get stuck trying to get through that one door they've been trying to open since the beginning of the game.
Aside from the lack of nostalgia, the biggest issue I had with the 8-bit Adventure Anthology was its gameplay mechanics. I played the entirety of the game on PlayStation 4 and I have never experienced anything quite as cumbersome and rage-inducing. Being a classic point-and-click game, you have to move a cursor around to interact with objects but without a mouse it's slow, frustrating and takes ages to get around the screen. Oftentimes the cursor would move too far so I'd click and end up into a room I didn’t want to be in, or I would click an item I didn’t intend to. If you don't grip your controller hard enough you'll likely find it flying out of your hands towards your television screen because of how annoyed you'll get with the controls. Don't worry about your neighbours thinking you're crazy when you start screaming, "No I don't want to pick up the door, I want to open it!!"
Control rage issues aside, that previous point of nostalgia is pretty important too. It’s obviously not the fault of the game creators that I didn’t have an NES as a kid and never played the games included in this anthology — but without that element of sentimentality, 8-Bit Adventure Anthology is nothing more than an outdated collection of old games. I mean, I love the classic graphics, music and stories that these games tell, but the awful controls and difficult gameplay really hold them back. Towards the end of my time with the game I found myself more exhausted than anything else. Even though I liked parts of each, they were all pretty frustrating experiences.
It’s always difficult to come at classic games from a completely fresh angle. If you’ve played them before you’ll probably have fond childhood memories of them. If you’ve never played them, you might still find them fun, but it's unlikely you'll get quite as much fulfilment from them. There's no doubt that 8-Bit Adventure Anthology Volume 1 is a good addition to your library if you're a fan of classic point-and-click adventures, but if you’re new to the titles, then get ready for some frustration. If you do decide, at your own risk, to pick them up I'd consider getting them on PC rather than on console to avoid controller-induced rage fits.