What can I say? It’s the perfect storm. Regular Show for the 3DS is the kind of game that I was going to buy regardless of what anyone said about it. It’s an old school platformer. It’s based on Regular Show. It was developed by WayForward. And, let’s be honest, at only 30 bucks, it doesn’t require a large investment.
Upon opening the game, I was greeted with just about the coolest looking manual I’ve seen in a long time. The manual was designed to look like an old Master System Manual. Even though the inside of the manual is filled with the multi-lingual 3-page fare we’ve come to despise from modern gaming manuals, the cover, at least, was a great way to make an early impression. Bravo, WayForward.
The main hook of Regular Show: MARIEBL (Morticai And Rigby In Eight Bit Land), as evidenced by the title, is that Mordecai and Rigby are going to be spending their time in an 8-bit setting. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the game has not actually been created to match any existing 8-bit specifications. The game hasn’t even been created with the intention to mimic said specifications. Instead, the title seems to be content in matching more of a 16-bit look than that of an 8-bit look. The decision is understandable. True 8-bit graphics or faux 8-bit graphics would have looked too simplistic for most modern gamers. 8-bit specs would also have prohibited WayForward’s amazing sprite animators from doing what they do best.
WayForward, in Regular Show: MARIEBL, have created a 16-bit look that simply oozes old school charm while staying true to the look of the source material. Mordecai and Rigby’s sprites and animations are a joy to see in motion. Their movements and facial expressions look like they were pulled directly from the show Watching Rigby scamper around on all fours during his running animation never ceased to put a smile on my face.
Aside from the traditional look of the show, there are many little graphical nods to classic gaming that are peppered throughout. Here’s just a few:
1. The file select icons are Master System Cartridges.
2. The number of lives remaining are shown before each level ala Super Mario World.
3. Mordecai and Rigby enter each stage as a beam of light like Mega Man.
4. Mordecai’s spaceship mode (more on that later) looks like it’s from Gradius.
5. A few enemies are very pixilated to look 8-bit.
So, even though Regular Show: MARIEBL, does not deliver on the promise of an 8-bit setting, the 16-bit-like one that is presented is so well done that it is easy to forgive WayForward’s decision to avoid making a strictly 8-bit styled title. That said, I would love to see a budget priced sequel that more closely follows the boundaries of 8-bit gaming like what we’ve seen in Capcom’s Mega Man 9 and 10 and Super Icon’s phenomenal Life of Pixel (shown below).
The sound design in Regular Show: MARIEBL, much like the graphics, has more in common with the 16-bit era of gaming than the 8-bit one. All of the music in the game is lovingly done in a chiptune style. Every wolrd in the game has two music tracks. One is for the overworld map and the other plays within that world’s levels. With there being a total of only 4 worlds, that gives us a very limited number of music tracks. That’s not to say that there are only 8 songs, though, as there are shorter situational ones that are also included. Though it may sound like there isn’t enough variety to the music, I never felt like there wasn’t enough music in the game. Because each world has only four levels, the one song used for each world never had a chance to grow tiresome.
Just like with the graphics, the sound design is also done in such a way as to reference older games. For example, even though the 3DS has enough horsepower to use actual voices for the game, there are none within this title. Instead, when the main characters are going, “OOHHHH,” victoriously, the game plays a tone to approximate the sound. It’s cheesy and sounds terrible, but it’s also charming. Also, it seems like all of the music is written to remind gamers of older game tracks. The continue screen, game over screen, and death tunes in particular sound VERY familiar. Lastly, the stage music tracks deserve special note for being original and exciting while still conforming to classic gaming music tropes. The first world, for example, has a jubilant hopeful track that is reminiscent of the kind of music found in countless colorful platformers.
All the amazing art and sound direction in the world can’t save a game if the gameplay is broken (I’m looking at you, Brutal Legend). Thankfully, this game is not broken. It’s also, sadly, far from perfect. In order to better review this particular part of the game, I feel like it’s necessary to explain a few things about the kinds of classic games Regular Show: MARIEBL has been inspired by.
Let’s start with a simple fact: Old School console games are really hard. They had to be really hard. They were being released at a time when game design was just starting to break free from an arcade business model that needed customers to fail in order to be lucrative. Coupled with this, a game needed to be hard in order to extend its length. Unlike today, most early console games could be beaten in under 2 hours. Punishing difficulty was the only way to really ensure that a gamer wasn’t done with a particular title the same day they bought it.
In keeping with that tradition, Regular Show: MARIEBL, is a very short game. The game is broken up into four worlds and each world contains four levels and one boss. That’s only 16 levels and 4 bosses total. If you really try, you can easily beat the game in one day. I know I did. In order to compensate for the short length, like old games, Regular Show: MARIEBL, proves to be a fairly difficult title. The game’s levels are littered with multiple enemies and hazards that will all end our (non-powered-up) heroes’ lives with only one hit. To be honest, the levels are probably too hard. WayForward must have noticed this because they added the modern concessions of checkpoints and progress saving. Without these two concessions, the title would probably have taken me a much much longer amount of time to complete. I’m unsure as to whether or not this was a good idea. On the one hand, the game is too short because it is not as difficult as it probably should be considering the history it is drawing from. On the other hand, the modern concessions make the game more approachable, less frustrating, and a better match for the show’s target audience. In the end, WayForward probably made the right choice despite what it does to the game’s length.
The game has three distinct styles of play. The first, and most prevalent, is platforming. Platforming control is tight and responsive. Every time I missed a jump, I was certain it was my, and not the controls’, fault. There are two ways to eliminate enemies during platforming sections. The first is to jump on their heads. This tried and true mechanic is an absolute bear to use. Unlike many games that use the same mechanic, I found Regular Show: MARIEBL’s implementation of it to be too difficult to confidently utilize. In order for Mordecai or Rigby to kill an assailant, they must land DIRECTLY on the top of the CENTER of that assailant’s head. If you land just a little to the left or right, chances are that your character is going to be the one to die. Because of this, I found myself avoiding confrontations with enemies unless I was in possession of the mullet power-up. The mullet power-up allows both characters to use a projectile weapon until they get hit and lose the mullet.
The second style of gameplay plays loosely like a shmup (shoot-em-up like R-type). Modecai, in certain sections of the game, can transform into a spaceship. You have control of how the ship moves and are not dragged along the level like in R-type. The ship controls fairly well and can charge its shots like Mega Man. The ship can acquire one power-up that you will keep for as long as you can avoid taking damage. The power-up grants you a spread shot type weapon and is very useful. The power-up functions as the mullet when you switch out of spaceship mode. Likewise, if you enter spaceship mode when you have the mullet, you will have the spread shot. The same is true for Rigby’s overhead gameplay mode and his respective power-up.
The third style of gameplay is that of an overhead shooter. In it, Rigby is armed with a gun and moves around a top-down perspective area while mowing down enemies. There is a slight stealth element to these sections as the enemies will only attack Rigby if they have seen him. Rigby’s power-up for these sections is an Uzi. The only difference between the uzi and his regular weapon is the rate of fire.
The three gameplay styles are each fun to play in their own way. Because levels can shift from one style to another style instantaneously, the addition of these gameplay styles adds great variety and difficulty to Regular Show: MARIEBL.
Sadly, the difficulty that is added is not always welcome. The shift to spaceship or shooter sections is done by having Mordecai and Rigby jump into the background. While in the background, there will be certain walls that are only part of the background and other walls that are part of the foreground. Often times, jumping back into the foreground will accidentally kill your character because the foreground section you are on has ceased to have a floor. These deaths feel cheap and can easily cause frustration. To further complicate issues, the overhead sections of the game allow Rigby to shoot through walls that are in the background but NOT the walls that are part of the foreground. As annoying as it all sounds, the odd thing is that when the shift jumping works, it really works. Jumping between 3 different styles of gameplay multiple times within one level is a whole lot of challenging fun.
Regular Show: MARIEBL’s extras are unlocked by collecting golden VHS tapes that are hidden throughout the game’s levels. Each level has 3 of them. The game’s unlockables can be viewed, listened to, or activated through the game’s unlockables menu. The first kind of unlockable is a terrible art gallery that does a poor job of showcasing the game’s artwork along with other faux sprite artwork that serves no purpose. The second kind of unlockable is the game’s sound mode which lets you listen to the game’s music. The last one is a cheat menu. The cheats are courtesy of a “Game Djinn” (funny). The cheats can be activated in this menu but only after they have been inputted into the Game Djinn. Since the game never gave me any codes to use, it’s anyone’s guess how we will be able to utilize them. For what it’s worth, my one guess, the Konami Code, was able to unlock Unlimited Lives.
The last extra is the game’s New Game Plus mode. For fans of harder difficulty, this mode will be a real treat. You start the game from the beginning (your VHS tapes carry over) with an increased difficulty, the removal of checkpoints, and a time limit added. It’s not the best way to extend game length, but it IS harder.
The 3D is serviceable. It breaks the game’s different fields into layers. If you’ve ever played a 2D game in 3D, it is exactly the same kind of lackluster effect you’re used to. The only appreciable effect on gameplay is that it makes some of the more confusing shift changing sequences easier to manage.
+ Art Design
+ Sound Design
+ The Sweet Manual Cover
+ Classic Gaming References
- Jumping on guys’ heads is too hard
- Game Length
On the whole, Regular Show: MARIEBL is the kind of game that’s really hard to recommend. Almost everything about it is great. The gameplay is tight, difficult, and satisfying. The art and sound design are exactly what they need to be. The game’s only real flaw, sadly, happens to be really detrimental. The game is simply too short. For thirty dollars, there should have been more to do. With that said, if you are a huge fan of Regular Show, a huge fan of classic games, and don’t mind spending 30 dollars on short games, then I definitely recommend this game for you. For everyone else, wait for the eventual price drop.