Friday, 28 December 2012

REVIEW - Ridiculous Reality (Atari 8-bit)

Winner of this year's Atari Bit Byte User Club's Software Contest by a considerable margin, Ridiculous Reality is a 2D platformer homebrew title developed for the 8-bit Atari XL / XE. The work of Developers Martin Šimeček, Adam Wachowski, Michał Radecki and Adam Powroznik, the game is based on the concept seen in the 2010 Flash game, Continuity. But where that game had extremely sparse graphics that were little more than basic black & white backgrounds and a stick man protagonist, Ridculous Reality is chock full of 8-bit charm and character. It is easy to see why it took home the gold as it is something really quite special.

The premise of the game is that each stage is split into multiple cells. Your character can move into adjacent cells, but only if a pathway between the two is created by moving them next to one another. If they do not match then you are blocked by the edge and cannot proceed. Cells are moved around by the player in the manner of those sliding puzzle games that I am sure you played as a child. Simply hold down the fire button and use the d-pad (or keys) to move them around. The main objective here is to collect all the keys dotted around the landscape, which in turn, opens the exit door. There are no enemies to avoid, nor a time limit to pressurise you or lives that can run out. Failure can come in the form of falling down a hole that doesn't have a matching segment beneath it, but this simply resets you back to your last collected key. These factors do not make the game easy to complete as the challenge lies in the constant shuffling of segments to reach new areas, a task that gets extremely tricky later on. Early levels only have four segments and fairly simple layouts, but as you progress the stages contain more segments and become increasingly maze like and fiendish to navigate. The lack of a time limit is excellent as it gives you the freedom to take your time, and plan your strategy for acquiring the keys. It is extremely engaging and you will be scratching your head at the puzzles on offer, though due to the game's excellent design you will never be frustrated.

With this being an Atari 8-bit home computer game the visuals are very old school, though it doesn't stop them being utterly charming and pleasing to the eye. Everything is nicely detailed for such tiny sprites, and the main character is well animated. The stages are colourful, and full of small details that bring life to them. The music is also excellent, with the catchy chiptune melodies getting stuck in your head and will have you tapping your foot along to them. Both the backgrounds and music change every few stages too, keeping repetition at bay and keeping the player on his or her toes. One minute you are running through a futuristic lab, the next a graveyard straight out of Ghosts 'N Goblins, and then a sun drenched desert complete with cacti.

The gameplay is challenging, immersive and, most importantly, fun. You will soon be addicted as the game has a strong 'one more level' feel that makes it hard to stop playing. It is an impressive achievement that all this can be played on an unexpanded Atari 8-bit machine, and for those of you who own one you will be delighted to hear that a deluxe edition will be released worldwide on cartridge soon. For the rest of us there is emulation. I found both Altirra or Atari800Win to be excellent methods of playing the game, though Atari800Win steals first place as it has (admittedly buggy) save states. Without saves the game will takes roughly three hours to finish, so make sure you set some time aside as once you enter this Ridiculous Reality you will find it a hard place to leave.

The Good:

  • Wonderful 8-bit graphics
  • Catchy chiptune soundtrack
  • Fun & addictive gameplay
  • Absorbing and challenging puzzles
  • Free

The Bad:

  • Atari users cannot save during the game