Indie

Dr. Green is Here to Cure Your Retro Cravings | Review

We take a look at the side-scrolling retro action platformer Dr. Green, developed by Johan Aronsson.

Dr. Green for PC

Games attempting to capture the allure of prior generations of gaming are everywhere these days, resurrecting the graphics, play, and other features of bygone days. Dr. Green is the latest of these that I’ve had the chance to try out, and it hits the nail on the head better than many attempts. Bringing an 8-bit style, glorious chiptune soundtrack, and true punishment for failures, there’s more than just the simple aesthetic of prior eras. From the bare-bones plot and Megaman-style action to the return of players to the beginning when they fall short, it captures much of what we loved — and loathed — of these so-called ‘glory days’ that introduced many of us to the wonderful world of games. But is something so rooted in the past able to hold up in the present?


Dr. Green opens with a short cinematic, introducing our protagonist. The son of a selfish and, frankly, terrible single parent, the intrepid Doc is left in a box in the woods mere days after his unfortunate birth. Raised by the forest and sworn to defend it from the encroaching forces of modern humanity, our young hero is the last line of defense against senseless urbanization. While it’s not much of a story, and it ultimately explains very little, it’s a nice backdrop to the introductory levels and beyond. I’m still not sure why a thirteen year old wild child is, apparently, able to communicate with plants and is packing some kind of devious firearm with which to protect his home. Some things, perhaps, are best left unexplained.

Dr. Green Forest

The game begins in the forest that Doc calls home. Threatened by logging and other industrial advances, Doc has his work cut out for him if he hopes to see the wilderness thrive.

Dr. Green‘s true claim to retro fame isn’t in the look of it. While there’s an indisputable old-school graphical and audio design, the quirky gameplay, sensitive controls, and unforgiving difficulty are the hallmark here. The nature-loving Doc has three hearts to represent his life, losing one any time an enemy lands a blow or touches him. Restoring health is a matter of finding and freeing caged animals along the way, and losing health will, of course, result in death. Losing all of your lives has the most brutal old-time feature of all, sending the player back to the beginning of level one as if nothing had been accomplished along the way. This makes things a real challenge, and collecting enough points to replenish your stock is no simple task.

Dr. Green Spike Walls

Deadly spikes, like those lining most of these walls, are nothing to trifle with. Touching these, or coming close enough to count, results in immediate death. Now that’s old school.

One thing I noticed about Dr. Green that I’ve missed in many of the throwback titles I’ve played is good, old-fashioned fun. While the difficulty is certainly up there and some segments can get frustrating, I still enjoyed myself thoroughly while playing. Maybe it’s my education in old Capcom action games on the NES, but there’s just something about those finicky collision boxes and the rapid-firing 8-bit hero that keeps me coming back for more. Most enemies aren’t especially dangerous on their own, but the mix of devious traps, deadly spikes, and looming desire not to be sent back to square one keeps the action tense and engaging as you guide Doc through the pollution-filled industrial zones to shut down the greedy, short-sighted city folk.

Dr. Green Octopus Boss

Difficult, challenging boss fights spice up the action at the end of each level, presenting serious challenges for even dedicated long-time gamers.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Dr. Green is that it is the brainchild of a solitary developer, Johan Aronsson. With a full slew of features hearkening to the 8-bit days, a well-rounded selection of obstacles and foes to overcome, and just enough story to make itself work, this title has plenty to offer for those of us who enjoy jaunts into the past with just the right polish to keep it relevant on the modern market. With Aronsson asking a mere $2.99 for the game on Steam, I can’t emphasize enough how worth the price of admission this one is if you’re into things that capture the look and feel of the 8-bit days. If you were raised with, and pine for, that style of game, you owe Dr. Green a try. If not, you may want to pass — but I’d think you’re missing out.

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