Back in the ancient low-res days — when people moseyed about it nothing but four shades of green — a 2-Bit town was under attack by a no-good gang of digital ruffians, truly it was a situation that was just begging for a double-jumping hero to arrive. So goes the set up of 2-Bit Cowboy (out now, $0.99), the latest title from the fine folks over at Cascadia Games — whom also made Cavorite 3 (our review) — as well as Crescent Moon Games. The end result is a heavily enjoyable platform jumping/exploration game — featuring non linear levels — that perfectly homages the aesthetics of ancient Game Boy style visuals, as well as classical game mechanics in general.
Your mission — after first selecting whether you are a male or female cowboy — is to scour through each of 2-Bit Cowboy’s 12 different massive stages, righting every last dastardly wrong that you come across. Of course, what’s the point of championing the cause of justice if you aren’t going to be properly paid for your efforts — in pennies no less — and therefore it’s absolutely vital that you seek out all of the necessary hidden job contracts. Each of these wanted posters will have a task — such as taking down all of the bandits, finding the missing sheep, or blasting every last scorpion present — that thankfully will still count even if you already finished the job before grabbing the physical flier.
Although every level in 2-Bit Cowboy technically ends when the player enters the stage’s hidden exit shack — which, in a tribute to Super Mario Bros, causes a flag to triumphantly be raised — going straight to any given level’s ending zone is actually counter productive. Rather than being a traditional platformer — which challenge players to eternally march forward towards some sort of goal-zone, overcoming every obstacle placed along the way — the exits shacks found within 2-Bit Cowboy usually aren’t particularly hard to reach. Instead — with lucrative posters and objectives hidden all of the place — the game’s real goal is to explore every last nook and cranny, or at least — that is — if you want to amass a small pile of digital fortunes.
Not only do these valuable pennies serve as a representation of how well you performed in any given stage — since you gain them for perfect exploration, and lose them for getting hit — they are also the means with which you purchase power ups from in-game vendors. However — beyond that — they are more importantly the currency by which you acquire extra wardrobe bits for your vigilante of choice, letting you strut about town in all of your preferred pixelated style (which the game can even post to Facebook if you so wish). Naturally — for those whom are of an impatient temperament — the game also offers players the ability to directly purchase these vital pennies, as well as the standard requisite coin doubler functionality that almost every app seems to have these days.
Thankfully a decision to not purchase coins won’t affect your ability to enjoy 2-Bit Cowboy’s classical shenanigans in the slightest, as each and every stage is otherwise fully finishable sans power-up purchases. Furthermore — and I’m not entirely sure how this one managed to get past Quality Control — but there’s also a bug that currently makes it impossible to customize your cowboy’s appearance at all, outside of the gender choice. While this error certainly does nothing to diminish any of Cascadia Games’ platforming style either, it certainly does make 2-Bit Cowboy’s IAP options 100% irrelevant until this curious bug is finally patched out.
Anyways — broken character customization issues aside — the control scheme for 2-Bit Cowboy keeps well in line with the game’s retro motif, deliberately mimicking the layout one might have used on a Game Boy. Players have their left and right movement controls on one side of the screen, where as the B and A buttons — which are for shooting and jumping respectively — are contained on the opposite end. Players can also double jump anytime they press the A button a second time while already in mid-air, as well as cling to the side of any wall if they actively move against it while already up in the air.
Also included in 2-Bit Cowboy, should you desire an even more authentic retro inspired control scheme, is the support for a wide variety of different iOS controller peripherals. While I am certainly glad to see more and more games supporting these devices, it always seems to only be an included feature on the games that have the least to gain from physical buttons. Never once as I was reviewing 2-Bit Cowboy did I ever have to fight with the game’s solid controls, which is quite impressive considering the large amounts of wall-jumping you’ll need to do in order to journey from one location over to another.
Equally solid are the game’s impeccably crafted retro-visuals, which — other than the matter of how smoothly they slide across the screen — look like they were ripped directly from an actual theoretical Game Boy title. While it has been a very popular trend — as of late — amongst indie developers to release games featuring pixelated graphics, the end results rarely feel as if they are genuine recreations of the games that we played as kids. Thus it is that 2-Bit Cowboy’s authentic visuals — which are certainly aided by a plethora of squat cowboys wielding oversized pistols — aren’t even what I am most happy to be reporting about, but rather how the game manages to recreate so many other key facets.
Everything occurring within a stage — from where coins can be found hovering, to the locations of floating platforms — will immediately ring true to anyone whom cut their gaming teeth in the eighties. Also included is the era’s complete disdain for any form of logic, with the player regularly being asked to complete tasks such as using a horse’s high-jumping prowess to search for coins sitting on top of clouds well above the stage itself. Furthermore — despite having been summoned to clean up the town’s bandit problem — players will far more often find themselves dealing with cantankerous wildlife, such as armadillos that violently roll back and forth upon spotting you.
Thusly I can safely say to anyone whom loved platforming exploration games from the eighties, and in particular also had a fondness for the Game Boy’s odd monochromatic visuals, that 2-Bit Cowboy is one game you’ll love bar none. Actually, odds are that — assuming you love platforming action in general — you’ll still adore the game regardless of whether or not an old clunker Game Boy was your only means of car trip salvation. Couple the game’s impeccable quality — as well as the lack of any detrimental IAPs — all alongside the fact that 2-Bit Cowboy can become yours for less than an entire dollar, and you immediately have an amazing offer that is truly hard to beat.
2-Bit Cowboy is a well-honed love letter to classic exploration platforming titles — as well as Game Boy style graphics — that gets a lot more right than merely featuring blocky graphics, and then adds solid controls on top of that. Although this game does contain the usual array of IAP options, none of them negatively impede your ability to finish Cascadia Games’ latest offering in the slightest whatsoever. While there is indeed an option to use those IAPs to speed up the acquisition of alternate outfit pieces, with which to adorn your pixelated cowboy, this superfluous functionality isn’t even currently working (not sure how that happened). Anyways — in conclusion — 2-Bit Cowboy is easily the retro tribute that Game Boy using children of the eighties have been waiting for, as well as fans of true retro platforming in general.