When thinking of top down shooters today, many people turn to the Xbox LIVE Arcade or the Playstation Network to get their fix. There are a great number of these titles available on consoles, but most of them only give a passing nod to the glory days of 8-bit entertainment. BOH is available on neither console, but rather on all three major OSes, and offers retro action you won’t be able to find in any game created in the past 15 years.
The storyline for the game is non-existent, as most 8-bit top down shooters were. Basically, you’re just a guy wandering through various levels in an attempt to make it out alive. Yet, the simplicity of gameplay, the variety of powerups and monsters, and the level of detail and thought that have gone into the game will leave you wanting more before you know it.
BOH features a claustrophobic look while exploring a wide variety of levels. In fact, there are over 35 levels to explore, with many featuring different phases of the same level. It really reminds me of the old Eye of the Beholder game on SNES, only instead of exploring a dungeon in the first person and having a party, you’re all on your own.
Throughout the level you’ll find different power ups that serve to enhance your vision, making monsters more visible and giving you a better degree of warning before you’re attacked by a horde.
You might be tempted to Rambo your way through the levels without exploring the different hallways and off shoots of the main room, but this would be a sad mistake to make. Since most power ups are hidden in the most devious of places, you’ll need to explore every facet of every room in order to find them.
Completing a mission without power ups is entirely possible, but you’ll find that it’s much more difficult than taking the time to explore the level and find vision and sound enhancing upgrades.
One of the unique things that serves to accentuate the environment of the game is the fact that BOH doesn’t feature any background music. All of the music in the game is left in the menu when selecting your missions.
However, once you’re in the belly of the beast, all you’re confronted with is the screams of various monsters and your footsteps as you explore the levels. This really serves to enhance the claustrophobic field of vision you start with, but after a while the repetitive screams of monsters can get nerve wracking, since there is no variety there.
The controls are all keyboard oriented, and turning can seem a tad awkward because of it. Basic movement controls are done using the arrow keys, but strafe keys can also be set that can make turning a bit easier.
Despite the addition of the strafe keys, the controls still feel clunky when you have to turn quickly to get at enemies coming at you from behind. I can’t help but feel this could have been alleviated if the game had opted to use the mouse for controls instead of the keyboard.
The graphics are of course, designed to emulate the old 8 bit systems of yore, and it does the job admirably. The rooms are never the same and the style is entirely dependent on the theme you choose in the main menu of the game.
There are six different styles to choose from, from Commodore 64 to a medieval theme, so if you get tired of looking at a certain set of graphics, you can change the theme and be treated to something entirely new. This doesn’t serve to enhance the gameplay in any way, but it is a nice feature since 8 bit graphics can get tiresome to behold.
Aside from the included levels and themes, you can download more from the site for additional challenge. There is no editor included, which is a shame considering how fun it would be to create new levels for the community, but there is a fan created editor that can be used to create your own levels. It’s clunky and hard to use and doesn’t feel as polished as an in game editor would be, so it’s very unlikely that anyone aside from the most hardcore fans would use it.
Overall, BOH is a great retro experience for anyone who is looking to relive the glory days of 8-bit gaming. The difficulty curve and the controls can be frustrating for casual gamers, but if you’re willing to stick with it, BOH is a decent game that will challenge even the most hardcore retro gamer.
Gamer Limit gives BOH a 7/10.