Running, space cats and shooting…lots of shooting.
Pico-8 is a “fantasy” console and programming language that lets anyone create fun, retro-inspired video games. People from around the world are creating new Pico-8 games and projects daily. Every month I’ll review some of my favorite games. You can play Pico-8 games online in your browser, or on any device that supports the Pico-8 client.
They Started It
The Pico-8 console is becoming a bastion of arcade shoot ’em ups…which is great. Shmups are traditionally pretty easy to make so creating one in Pico-8 is a great way to learn a lot of things you need to make even more games. They Started It is a great, endless ride through a bottom-of-the-screen style shooter. Plenty of happy colors, smoke and some pretty kick ass missiles. If there’s one thing to nit pick, is that it’s a pretty easy game. At one point I kept trying to die and failed…I finally game up at wave 100 just because. Nonetheless, it’s a great time killer.
Play They Started It in the browser or on your Pico-8 console
Strung Out in Heaven’s High
The Pico-8 is plentiful with free arcade-style games. Shooters, platformers and puzzles make up most of what you’ll find, but every now and then you’ll find something a little bit different. Strung Out in Heaven’s High is just that and is more “zen” than game. You’re a cat flying through space looking for cat nip. Satellites will help guide you and you’ll find other things along the way. I admit it’s not much of a game, per se, but I kept coming back to play. The controls are tight, the music is okay and palette switching, while simple, lets you pick the color scheme that’s right for you.
I have a love/hate relationship with speed platformers like Super Meat Boy and others. On one side, I love the challenge and repetition of learning a level. On the other side, I hate getting so frustrated that I end up rage quitting. Cave Runners kind of hits a sweet spot. Not only do you just need one button to play, you don’t have to worry about enemies or obstacles…you just run…and jump, trying to find your target within the level. Now this doesn’t mean there aren’t some tricky jumps and skill involved but there’s much less rage as a result.
The Violet Signal
Arcade shooters are known for their difficulty and The Violet Signal is no exception. Where They Started It is more on the easy side, this one will definitely challenge you. Rather than fighting wave after wave of enemy ships, you’re attacking nothing but bosses…but these bosses aren’t push overs. Each have several stages before you can kill them and it keeps you on your toes. This is an endurance game so bring your best thumbs and good luck.
Pokemon is all the rage now, right? Well, not even the Pico-8 is safe from their influence, and that brings us to Pico Monsters. Walk around catching Pico monsters and then take them into battle. This demake-esque title isn’t as deep as the classic Pokemon, but it’s still a ton of fun walking around and discovering all it has to offer. And to be honest, I haven’t gone very far but I keep coming back.
Okay…so once again, here’s a game that I made, so this is less review and more just a plug. One of my favorite shooters is Space Invaders Extreme that was released on the Nintendo DS. It was pretty much Space Invaders turned up a notch with sensory overload, bosses and awesome music. I felt I could bring that to the Pico-8, so I did. While I hate to call Invader Overload a clone, it kind of is, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to enjoy.