Sunday, 4 January 2009

[116] Rom Check Fail

Earlier today, I was reading the Best Freeware of 2008 lists, and came across a game in the Arcade game section called Rom Check Fail, created by a developer called Farbs.

Named after the start-up process failure, the game is a glitchy, bugged-out platformer/shooter where the player has to defeat all the enemies in a level to proceed. The hook is that the levels, sprites and music are made up of many different properties from various retro game franchises (such as Mario, Defender, Zelda, Asteroids and so on). This leads to interesting and mind-bending combinations, such as a Spy Hunter car battling goombas, or Link swiping his sword at Space Invaders.

What makes the situation trickier, and more invigorating, is that every few seconds the game 'glitches', switching around the tileset and sprites. One second you'll be playing as Mario, the next Pac-Man. The enemies also change, so you could be taken unawares as your Asteroids turn into ghosts from Gauntlet.

It works on the same level as Wario-Ware, in the sense that you are always on your toes, but what gets me is that with each shift, the tactics and basic gameplay changes for both your character and the enemies on-screen. Sprites can be locked to a horizontal axis (the ship from Space Invaders), or be tied to the ground by gravity (Mario). Equally, they can be fixed in perspective (the Spy Hunter car), or given free rein of movement at 360-degrees (the Asteroids ship) or the four poles (Zelda, Pac-Man). In terms of attacks, it goes without saying that Mario needs to jump on enemies, but that becomes harder when he has to attack those weird shapes from Qix. It's a dazzling game, that needs to be seen in motion to be appreciated, or even basically understood.

The result is the closest I've come to feeling the ADD/surreal vibe of glitch-core mash-ups in anything other than music. It's like playing a Kid606 track, or Venetian Snares' 'Pwntendo'. Which, in my mind, is awesome. I suppose it is not for everyone, as the predominance of glitching and distorted sound samples can be grating for those not accustomed to listening such noise for fun or leisure.

Nevertheless, Rom Check Fail is a demonic form of nostalgia. It is short, with just 20 levels, but the replayability is surprisingly high, given the variation on offer. And it's only a 2mb download. What are you waiting for? Check it out here.

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