B.I.O.T.A is a 4-bit 2D metroidvania developed by small bros and published by Retrovibe, the game lets you choose from a cast of mercenaries investigating a mining colony infected with an alien plague if that sounds a little derivative, that’s the point. It drenches itself deliberately in 80s sci-fi and gaming nostalgia with no facet of this more evident than its 4-bit graphical style and absolutely gorgeous pixel work which bring it to life in a beautiful sci-fi world.
The game is extremely well crafted with a clear passion for the era it pays homage to on a visual front though we must point out that this graphical style won’t appeal to everyone, if you don’t hold any nostalgia for the retro style of games like Contra or really any big title from the 80s then some of the impact of its presentation may be lost upon you, however even self-admittedly not overly caring for this style the pure quality and passion of it won me over. I think one of the core features is the ability to change the 4-bit color palette from between over 50 options and you’ll find them scattered around the map as you play to unlock, you can even add varying degrees of a CRT screen effect for the finishing touches. Ultimately the abundance of changeable palettes is awesome but in reality you find one you like and stick with it. Apart from the graphics, the game has an absolute banger of a soundtrack, if you love that loop hero style crunchy electronic you’ll thoroughly enjoy it’s offerings here, it matches with the difficult nature and at times punishing pace of the game as well and it amps up the intensity nicely.
If the idea of handhold free discovery based punishing gameplay doesn’t appeal to you you probably won’t enjoy biota but if it does it’s a very solid option within the genre, now the story of B.I.O.T.A is deliberately cliche but it is in a somewhat endearing way it was never going to be the star of the show and it knows it. It’s fun enough though it does have a couple of twists and turns as you progress through which is enough to keep you hooked into the setting and that’s all it needs. Gameplay here does feel tight despite some minor control issues and I like the slightly more exploratory nature within the genre. There’s a cast of characters you can swap between back at base, though none of them feel truly revolutionary from each other the choices boil down to whether you’d like a short range shotgun or a mid-range rifle. also each character does indeed have a special ability from planting c4 to an invulnerability shield but these could have been served arguably better as equipment or power ups that you pick up around the map and that would have led to more flexibility on the go, I feel like a slightly more in-depth loadout or customization of abilities would have done wonders here to add another layer to the game but perhaps it’s not really necessary for its intended audience.
Overall, while I enjoyed my hours blasting through B.I.O.T.A, once the novelty of the color palettes and the nostalgia of the chiptune wore off, I was left with a bit of a sinking feeling that I wish they’d invested as much in the gameplay as they did in the vibe. In saying that, I still recommend the game to any fans of the metroidvania genre especially if the graphics appeal to you.