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PAX East – High Strangeness Hands-On Impressions

High Strangeness, from Barnyard Intelligence, is doubly and aptly retro. Its been inspired by the RPGs, and adventure games from the 8-bit and 16-bit generation, and the game wholly reflects the pros and cons of those generations. High Strangeness has a really neat trick that turns the perspective from 8-bit to 16-bit at the players will. Barnyard uses the transition from 8-bit to 16-bit to create a very interesting puzzle, adventure RPG mash-up that is well worth a look at.

The transition has combat and puzzle implications that are authentic to their respective bits. For example, projectiles from enemies could only travel in four directions, because of the limitations of that generation, making it advantageous for the player to be in the 8-bit perspective while in combat with certain enemies. Additionally, while in the 16-bit perspective, the game had a fluidity that lacked while in the 8-bit. Any time I came across enemies that would need a couple slashes, that’s the perspective I would choose.


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Not only does the perspective change affect the combat, but environmental elements change, too. I came to a bunch of rocks  at one point in the demo, and after mulling over it in my brain for a second, I switched the perspective from 16-bit to 8-bit and it highlighted a path I could use to cross. Also came a puzzle that required pushing pillars, that from what I can ascertain can only be moved in the 8-bit perspective. My only gripe with the mechanic is that as of right now I feel as though every puzzle could be solved by flipping between 8-bit and 16-bit. It was a short demo, and was only a snippet of the game, so I’m sure the complexity of the mechanic well develop throughout the game.

The game also has some of the troublesome tropes from the generations it mimics. I managed to get lost in the very short demo, sure, where I was supposed to go wasn’t incredibly far away from where I was, however, the game gives you no sense of direction, which may, or may not, be ideal for players looking for a game with modern amenities.

High Strangeness has an authenticity most indie retro games don’t. It embraces what it is, and uses it to create a game that looks interesting to say the least.

 

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