The indie video game industry offers a wide variety of experiences, but some genres are much more exploited than others. Maybe it’s because of their accessibility to programming or because they’re intuitive formulas for gamers that don’t require too many tutorials, but The metroidvanias with retro graphics they have ceased to be a trend to be a very particular phenomenon. In the sea of indie options to enjoy the genre, this week has arrived BIOTAthe new work of little brothers. Are there elements that separate it from other experiences?
The title begins with a story worthy of an 80s action movie, since much of its essence seeks to pay homage to a retro era when games were not characterized by graphics. A Special Forces team must travel to an asteroid to contain a threat that could destroy Earth.
Players can choose from different characters to take on this adventure, each with a unique main weapon and special weapon. Some soldiers are ideal for ranged attacks, while others rely much more on explosives or close-range weapons with higher impact. In addition, throughout the levels other protagonists can be added, such as a doctor who can heal and a fundamental robot to overcome a small part of the game. Completing the campaign also unlocks more characters for those interested in replayability.
Scenes can change their tone drastically thanks to the different color palettes available (Photo: Retrovibe/small bros)
BIOTA doesn’t have too many explanations of its controls as they are quite intuitive. The title also features classic mechanics from other metroidvanias and platforms, such as wall jumps, which allows us to act instantly. To extend this feeling, the game also has a dedicated quick-save button, which not only allows you to save your game almost at any time, but also returns to the action almost instantly when you die.
Navigation through the different scenarios and biomes is done with the map, which reveals the areas when we visit them. In order to advance to all the bosses and beat the campaign, it is necessary to go through the map in a certain order, obtain keys and activate switches for doors that block the way. Along the way, there are also shops that allow you to improve the life and ammo of all characters, as well as obtain specific upgrades, keys or items to advance in the campaign.
If these descriptions of the mechanics of BIOTA are applicable to dozens of other video games, it is because the title Small Bros does not innovate too much on this side. The action is frenetic and some particular scenarios require you to try again and again to survive, albeit without unfair enemies or fiendish difficulty.
Vehicle segments change the pace with hordes of enemies (Photo: Retrovibe/small bros)
BIOTA has some interesting segments with vehicles, such as spaceships, submarines or robots, which have a very different rhythm and sometimes even change the perspective of the camera, turning it into another game for a while. It’s a feeling similar to the one generated by Cyber Shadow last yearbut without its elaborate pixelart.
Instead, BIOTA’s unique feature is its palette modifier. Throughout the adventure, players come across specimens that they must collect to better understand this threat that may come to Earth. Apart from the fact that these are elements that will determine which of the two possible endings is obtained, they also unlock different color palettes to experiment with. In total, there are more than 50 palettes of four colors and each refers to specific eras or game titles.
It’s a more than interesting mechanic, which manages to change the aesthetics of the game from moment to moment without transitions or loading screens. The only downside is that some of these palettes can be a little tiring to look at, but the variety is so wide that it’s practically impossible to get bored of this section.
The bosses of the game do not present major difficulties and always allow you to save the game just before the confrontation (Photo: Retrovibe / small bros)
I had the chance to test BIOTA on an ASUS Vivobook Pro 15 OLED laptop provided by the folks at amd and I can’t think of a better screen for seeing color palettes than a Pantone validated. Although it is not a video game requiring a powerful PC behind it, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor with its Zen 3 architecture enabled an uninterrupted gaming experience, which goes hand in hand with BIOTA and its action frantic. Additionally, the ability to configure game-specific profiles made it possible to take full advantage of the machine’s features without sacrificing image quality or increasing fan volume.
Beyond color palettes and enemy-laden vehicle segments, BIOTA doesn’t have much else to set it apart from other metroidvanias. Luckily, every new video game doesn’t have to revolutionize one aspect or mechanic with its gameplay. As well as Infernax a few months ago, BIOTA is an ideal title for those who want to relive the nostalgia of 8-bit titles, but without their cumbersome mechanics, primitive save systems or the limitations of the technology of the time.
With BIOTA and its previous title, ghostly matter, the Small Bros studio has shown that it is a fan of retrogaming and that it knows how to sublimate certain formulas that have been used for decades. In both cases, they managed to innovate with new and more than interesting elements while presenting very neat adventures with a fairly modern pace. While not wonderful, these are experiences lasting a few hours ideal for cutting between open world titles of hundreds of hours and games as a service that demand even more.