The historical past of Surprise Boy may hardly be extra convoluted. It started as a platformer in Japanese arcades in 1986, moved to consoles, grew to become an RPG, co-existed with similar however differently-named video games from different publishers, and spawned sequels in a mystifying numbering sequence. All of which meant that when it was remade in 2016 as Surprise Boy Returns for PS4 and Steam, it’s unclear what anybody would have anticipated of it.
No matter expectations have been in 2016, it’s time to regulate them. Surprise Boy Returns Remix on Swap goes again to what the sequence does finest: utilizing a complicated identify and swerving sharply in a brand new course. Surprisingly, a lot of the content material added to Returns in 2016 has been eliminated for Returns Remix. What’s left is a brilliant remastering of the 1986 traditional with sympathy for contemporary console gaming conventions and a few creative and clever gameplay changes.
In case you choose up Surprise Boy Returns Remix for 5 minutes, you would possibly suppose we’re mad; to the uninitiated, its mechanics are obtuse and infuriating – and accompanied by mercilessly repeated, taunting muzak. Nevertheless, should you can handle some endurance, you can find a well-designed motion recreation that makes absolute sense of its world and its management scheme.
Your caveman character, Tomtom, is already peddling away with ever-running legs earlier than the stage title flies away. It’s cute, nevertheless it additionally reveals a fact in regards to the recreation: you might want to maintain transferring. There’s no pressured scroll – though that was apparently thought-about for the arcade unique – quite, the gameplay and degree design simply be certain that fixed progress is probably the most profitable technique. That is strengthened by the truth that your leap is nerfed to ineffective should you’re not urgent left or proper. Stand nonetheless and also you’re not going to dodge very a lot.
The draw back is that solely urgent a course boosts your leap – it has nothing to do with Tomtom’s momentum. It’s fairly unintuitive should you’re anticipating Mario-like inertia. Simply to kick newcomers whereas they’re down, too, Surprise Boy will kill you with a single hit. There’s a observe mode, performed as Tomtom’s motor-scootered girlfriend Layla, however she controls completely in another way so actually solely serves as a separate, straightforward recreation that might most likely go well with very younger players.
All that apart, when you’ve clicked with it, the motion flows properly. Ranges are fully horizontal and require no exploration. It’s all typical pit-jumps and transferring platforms, populated by enemies with completely different behaviours. The enemies will be dodged however, for probably the most half, it’s finest to take them out with the stone-age axes Tomtom throws.
The fundamental sample of play is to run left-to-right, leaping as cued by gadgets and platforms, throwing axes virtually always. The cues can have you intuitively discovering arcs by way of the extent that end in your axes clearing the trail of enemies earlier than you get there. This provides an amazing sense of circulate and is the beating coronary heart of the arcade unique: run, leap, throw and the baddies in some way disperse earlier than you want parting seas. The skateboard power-up is maybe the fullest embodiment of the Surprise Boy spirit: it always drives you forwards, it’s enjoyable, and it is senseless by any means for a caveman to be doing it.
Three vital improvements by Korean developer CFK complement the core mechanics. The primary is to suit extra of the extent onscreen than in earlier video games. This implies you could have a extra cheap probability of sight-reading the extent, quite than having to study by rote, as was the punishing tradition of the ’80s arcade. This permits the second innovation, which is that your axes go additional, transferring the purpose of contact with enemies just a bit additional away, providing you with a good probability to react to any misses. The third is a brand new cost shot. Holding the throw button saves up a jumbo axe, unleashed with a fortunately retro, scaled-sprite aesthetic. This axe will run by way of a number of enemies and smash some beforehand indestructible obstacles. This once more emphasises the enjoyable of Surprise Boy: clear the trail as you run, leap and throw.
The components of 2016’s Surprise Boy Returns which were deserted will not be insignificant. That recreation introduced in lots of new enemy varieties and environments. These are all gone, leaving solely HD revisions of the unique choice. That goes so far as the bosses. Returns noticed an entire set of distinctive boss battles. Returns Remix plumps for the unique set which is a completely weird sequence of the very same boss however with completely different supersized heads. On defeat, the present head slides offscreen fairly unceremoniously and the subsequent one slides in like a default PowerPoint animation. Then the boss exits with out regard for partitions, ground or ceiling, prepared so that you can struggle him once more in 4 ranges’ time.
And right here’s the place Surprise Boy Returns Remix might need issues: it’s extraordinarily repetitious. Not solely the bosses, however total ranges are repeated with solely minor changes. As soon as the preliminary problem barrier’s cleared, it’s a easy slope to the end and the ultimate boss presents no problem since you’ve actually crushed him a minimum of seven occasions earlier than.
To be truthful to CFK, that is how the unique was purported to be. The builders should have labored laborious on all the brand new property for the 2016 launch however nonetheless made a daring design resolution to chop them. Again within the arcade, the problem was to go so far as potential on a single credit score. The mild problem curve and fixed familiarity are conducive to that sort of play. In acknowledgement of this, the opposite character possibility along with Tomtom and Tanya is known as “One Coin”. That is arguably the best way it’s purported to be performed: a single credit score with ten lives, no stage choose and no continues.
Gamers decided to get pleasure from Surprise Boy Returns Remix may even have to overlook some oddities: the model we reviewed featured no intro however appeared to re-use an ending from an earlier recreation, which was subsequently a complete non-sequitur. Earlier video games additionally supplied a “doll bonus” for amassing tricky-to-reach dolls in every degree. Right here, the dolls stay, however there isn’t a file of whether or not you’ve managed to get them. Lastly, there’s a fruit-eating mechanic that has gone with out point out simply because it’s so unbalanced that it made virtually no distinction to the sport. In case you don’t accumulate meals shortly sufficient as you play then your vitality will run out and also you’ll die. This caught us out as soon as finally, however solely as a result of we’d forgotten about it for nearly the entire recreation.
The success of Surprise Boy Returns Remix is that it captures the perfect of the unique Surprise Boy and packages it in a method that’s totally palatable to a contemporary viewers. The draw back is that the unique recreation was very a lot a product of the player-hostile arcade genres of the ’80s. Take away the sternness of its problem and issues begin to look repetitive: the identical handful of levels time and again with little to inform them aside; the identical boss showing eight occasions, the ultimate time barely any tougher than the primary. Nonetheless, it’s an amazing modernisation of a traditional and a stress-free method to really feel the fun of Surprise Boy and get to the ultimate boss. Nevertheless, if the time trialling and One Coin mode don’t attraction to you, then will probably be just a little temporary.