Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gravis Gamepad Not Incluided - MURI

NOTICE: please excuse the windows borders in the screenshots. the game had some issues with me taking screenshots and this was the only way that didn't upset it.

As someone who plays a lot of indie games, I see a lot of 'retro' homages. lots of games with chiptunes and pixel graphics meant to mimic old 8 or 16 bit systems, usually the NES and SNES. I don't mind this, and some games manage to do an amazing job with mimicking the look and feel of these older games but I prefer it when developers decide to base them game on something more unusual. For example, 80s DOS shareware games.

MURI is a platform game about the disappearance of Mars, the game actually has more story than you might expect for a simple platform game, told through cutscenes at various points through the game. it's not a massive story or an insanely complex one. That said, since a big part of the story is finding out what's actually going on, I can't give any actual details for fear of spoilers. I will say however, that the story felt like something out of and old 80s anime, which does a good job of fitting with the retro tone of the rest of the game.
cutscenes like this tell the story
Gameplay is fairly simple. This a classic run and gun platform game, you job in each level is to simply find the exit. levels however are fairly open. you do have to explore a bit as the exit isn't always simply to the right. even when you do know where the exit is, exploring is still worthwhile as levels can be full of side passages and hidden areas which include powerups and extra lives on top of bonus points. there's also a cell hidden in each level, which you can use to get extra powerups to help fight the boss at the end of each episode. So it pays to thoroughly explore each level.

Each level also has plenty of enemies, and there's a good variety of them in game. ranging from wall turrets to combat robots to tiny flying drones. Each enemy can come in several variants, these variants are not only tougher than the original enemy, but have extra abilities like jumping or shooting. to fight them, you actually have a decent selection of weapons. Weapons are mostly straightforward but get the job done nicely, wither it's rapid fire or a spread shot. Some of the later weapons however, can have some interesting abilities, such as a laser that splits and bounces off of walls.
you can even bounce off enemies Mario style
Each episode in the game ends in a boss battle, and the boss battles are pretty good. They're nice and big, take some effort to beat, and finish off each episode nicely. boss stages are also where the cells I mentioned earlier come into play. Before the boss you're presented with some doors blocking the way to various powerups and the cells unlock them, meaning if you managed to find some cells in the episode, you can get some extra help with dealing with the boss. it's not required as the bosses can be beaten without having any cells, but it's there if you need it and a good way to reward exploration.

While MURI is a solid platform game, it's greatest strength is easily how well it captures the look and feel of an old DOS game, the game is broken up into episodes, each of which is played separately and you can tackle them in any order, just like in old shareware games. The game's story feels like something out of that era and the gameplay does a good job of supporting this. If you've played any older DOS games like Commander Keen, Duke Nukem 1 and 2, or Bio Menace This game will feel very similar. it even has keyboard only controls, no mouse input, though you can use a gamepad if desired.
Each episode ends with a boss battle like this one.
Graphically, the game mimics the look and feel of dos games perfectly, The game uses large sprite graphics with a minimal color pallet like an old EGA game, the game can even be made to run at 16 frames per second and when run this way it looks exactly like an old DOS game. If it wasn't for the 2013 copyright, you could readily pass this as something from the 80s, it does it's job that well.

The game's sound is authentic as the graphics, which is both good and bad. It's PC speaker only which fits the game perfectly, Everything sounds exactly like what you'd expect from an older game and nothing is out of place. This is great, but it does have one major drawback: the game is fairly quiet due to a lack of a soundtrack, there's a small tune played for the title screen, but that's it. What you here fits the game perfectly, there's just very little to hear.
Levels are fairly open, and readily reward exploration

The game has a few minor flaws. Namely, weapon selection is automatic and can't be controlled by you at all. the way weapons work makes this mostly a non-issue, though it's a touch annoying if you wanted to use a specific weapon to save ammo for later. The other problem is the game is short. I beat all 4 episodes in one sitting and that took about 2 hours. It would of been nice if there were a few more stages, though the inclusion of high scores and multiple difficulty levels does give a decent reason to play through the game multiple times. Finally, and this is just a personal thing, the game does not have a demo, as the game is based on old shareware titles, it would of been great if there was a shareware demo of the first episode, and the lack of one feels a bit like a missed opportunity.

In recommending this game I'll have to note that what you get out of it depends a lot on where you're coming from. If you grew up playing those old shareware games, this game is an awesome throwback that's definitely worth picking up. If you didn't, it's still a solid game that could be worth a playthrough, but you might find it hard to appreciate what the game is doing.

MURI was developed by Ludosity and Remar Games and published by Ludosity. It is available on Steam.

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