Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-bit Land

Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-bit Land

If the name of this game confuses you, let me quickly explain that; it's the result of the license on which the title is based. Regular Show, if you're not familiar with it, is a Cartoon Network series starring a blue jay called Mordecai and a raccoon called Rigby. A couple of regular guys (in a world where other regular guys include a gumball machine - their boss - and high five - a ghost with a hand sticking out of his head), Mordecai and Rigby end up in some extraordinary situations on a (you guessed it) regular basis.

I don't know about you, but my expectation for games based on licenses like this are, well, let's just be polite and say "not high". Licenses seem to give publishers all the excuse they need to cheap out on development costs, banking on the material being enough to get the sales they need to turn a profit. So I wasn't that excited about playing 8-bit Land, even though - as an older gamer myself - the idea of playing some sort of retro-based action game is in itself a pretty interesting premise.

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The structure of the game is ripped straight from Mario; there's an overworld map and you unlock new nodes (which in turn represent levels) by beating the newest node you already have access to. That's not where the similarities to Mario games ends, either. At its core, the game is a platformer; a side-scrolling affair, you need to jump around, bounce on enemy heads, collect cash, and get to the end. There's even a mid-level checkpoint that fans of the New Super Mario Bros. series will be familiar with.

Fortunately, it soon expands beyond the merely derivative, with a large number of traits that set it apart from the many other Mario clones out there. For a start, at (almost) any point, you can press a button to immediately switch out one of the Regulars for the other. Mordecai can double-jump, while Rigby fits into smaller spaces; components of most of the levels have been built to justify this functionality, so you need to get used to using it (it's a bit cumbersome in practice, and the sections of the levels you need to use it feel forced as a result.)

Once you've gotten used to the basic platforming stuff, and beaten the first boss, things get even more interesting. The second world spices things up by having parts of the platforming levels designated as areas that you can transform into a spaceship in (!), at which point it becomes a side-scrolling shooter. You need to be careful, however, as moving from one of these areas into a normal area forces you to switch back to your Regular self; levels are built around this core mechanic, and many cheap deaths will result from the traps created by it.

The third world takes that "parts of the level are different" idea and switches things around even further; here, your character can optionally switch so that they're now playing a top-down shooter (!!). It's a clever twist on the genre and quite unlike anything I've ever seen before, which was refreshing to say the least.

Unfortunately, the clever ideas and masterful concept of collecting together classic genres is let down in the finishing. The controls in particular are often poor, and deaths will frequently come from problems translating your desires into action (rather than through a lack of skill.) It's also super hard, although it could be said that's simply the developers - Way Forward - being true to the "8-bit" part of the title (games were harder back then, believe it.)

The game is also extremely faithful to the period with regards to its sound; the music in particular is a chip-tunes treat, and the sound effects are extremely reminiscent of classic gaming from years gone by. Visually, it's less true to the days of the NES and Master System; sprites - which look great, particularly those of your characters - are more like what you'd find on a 16 bit device, and backgrounds, well, they don't look remotely retro. The visual mix is jarring and disappointing; if ever there was an excuse to go full retro with your pixels, a game in which your lead characters are sucked into an old videogame system is it.

There's also quite a few little (and not so little) bugs in the game, which lends more credence to the idea that the developers put this one in a box, as it were, a little before its time. At one point, for example, my spaceship forgot it wasn't allowed in certain areas and suddenly I could fly anywhere. The music stopped, too, and on other occasions I was unable to proceed thanks to simplistic AI. I even managed to exploit a weakness in the design "extra lives" / checkpoint systems to accumulate 99 extras (the maximum - just like Mario.)

It's a great idea, though, and there are many moments of genius in here. If you're looking for something to scratch the itch left by Retro Game Challenge (and the fact that its Japan-only sequels are likely to never be translated), it's an imperfect choice that will frustrate - but you'll still find yourself coming back to it. If you're not that into retro, and you have no allegiance to the show, there's nothing for you here, however.

"Could have been so much better, but it's not garbage."
- Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-bit Land
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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Comments Comments (1)

Posted by jtbthatsme
On Thursday 21 Nov 2013 9:15 AM
I love The Regular Show lol...not sure I'll ever play this game as don't own a 3DS but still love the show hehe.