– The CRT Television effect is lovingly crafted and very realistic
– The controls are tight and responsive
– The graphical style is bland and generic, and the color choices are often garish and hard to look at for long periods of time
– The music is bland
– Gameplay mechanics seem copied directly from games like Zelda II and Megaman
– Level design often seemed disorganized or arbitrary
For gamers with nostalgia for the 8-bit days of yore where Nintendo reigned supreme, there isn’t a better or worse time to be alive. Waves of 8-bit titles continue to be released in the indie sphere—and much like in the old days, when the games are good, they’re really good. And when they’re not, they’re mostly just mediocre platformers that borrow heavily from other franchises. This is where Super Win the Game comes in.
Much like Retro City Rampage, the game has an artificial frame rendered around the game screen, which is made to look like an old CRT Television (Retro City Rampage uses a screen like an arcade board). At first glance, this effect is very cool—everything has the soft fuzzy glow of old 8-bit gaming. However, upon starting up the game, I was struck by how simplistic the graphics were. Normally, I’m a huge fan of pixel art—Shovel Knight was a revelation in both design and use of the 8-bit trope. Super Win the Game’s graphics are definitely 8-bit, but perhaps too faithfully so. The colors seem to literally have the palette range of an NES, and those colors are not used to the advantage of the game. Things are muddy and unmemorable. The character sprites are too small for the huge expanses of space on the screen, usually taken up by big chunks of sky and empty backgrounds. It gives the game a decidedly empty feeling.
The gameplay is split up into two main chunks, feeling like a mash up of Kaizo trap platforming games and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. You spend some of your time time traversing a large map with small, deserted looking towns that both feel as if they were copied directly from Zelda II. The other half of the game is focused on platforming sections that take notes from Super Mario Bros 2, with vertical falling sections, and Mega Man, with its smaller obstacle course screens. These become progressively more difficult as the game goes on, although one modern touch comes with the addition of bells at the beginning of many sections that serve as checkpoints. These sections, however, continue to feel as uninspired and bland as the graphics, and at first I couldn’t figure out why.
The game is full of retro references, right down to the cover that features a Nintendo Power-esque layout. Normally, I would love this. Those kinds of tongue in cheek references made me absolutely love Retro City Rampage. However, the references in Super Win the Game were one of its main problems. The references aren’t really played for laughs—they’re built into the code, and they don’t really have much of a personality of their own. They feel cut copied and pasted from gameplay mechanics in other, better games. This isn’t to say Super win the game is by any means bad—the gameplay is solid and the controls are tight. Still, I often found myself thinking “I wish I could just play Mega Man/Super Mario 2,” although I never found myself wishing I could stop and play Zelda II.
Inevitably, I began comparing it to Shovel Knight, which some might say does some of the same things. However, using modern coding and imagination, Yacht Club imbued Shovel Knight with a sense of originality. Super Win the Game has retro mechanics, but they have little to no variation on those mechanics. The wall jumps didn’t even have a specific sprite animation. The graphics were 8-bit, and the CRT effect was lovingly crafted, but the color choices were bland, often leaving most of the screen full of large expanses of black or blue. The level design often felt incoherent and disorganized, with random sets of tiles in places that seemed arbitrary or deliberately confusing; even the title is generic and uninspired.
Did Super Win the Game reach its goal? Did it bring with it a feeling of intense nostalgia for the 8-bit days? Yes, in a way—for me, however, it was reminiscent of a different type of game than it was trying to emulate. The 8-bit ere of games was filled with companies turning out generic platformers that used tropes from other more successful games. Sonic and Mario clones dominated the rental shelves everywhere, many of them now forgotten. Unfortunately, Super Win the Game feels like those forgotten soldiers. Not bad enough to be memorable, like Bubsy, and not good enough to rise above, like Cool Spot.
Review Score: Super Win the Game earns 5 bootleg NES cartridges out of 10.
Review Notice: The game was provided to us by the developer and is based upon an early access release code.
About the Writer:
Allen Jenkins is a contributing writer for Blast Away the Game Review that has a love for retro gaming. His entertainment value and want for a challenge is easily noticed when he discusses games. His thoughts and opinions about the industry is what helps make him a man who is passionate about the topic, but also a valuable member of the journalism, and gaming industry.