I choose which Bytten games to review in a variety of ways. Sometimes I examine all those on offer to see which appeal to my game style the most. Sometimes, if I'm pushed for time, I choose a game which I feel will not take long to play. And sometimes, like this one, I just pick a title and go with one at random. Fittingly enough, BOH (perhaps the shortest game title we've ever had here at Bytten, but I'd need to check) is an Italian expression meaning "I don't know" - this is a game that began as an experimental project and then the name rather stuck.
BOH sees you in the role of a lone resistance fighter, engaging all manner of evil beasties and daring numerous puzzles and traps in order to hunt down and kill the Evil Masters. These foes can and will throw all manner of nasties at you in your quest, which you can blast as you explore the dungeon-like locations. You start out with a dim light and a weak weapon, with various items of useful equipment to be found in the dungeons themselves. You can walk backwards, forwards, turn and sidestep, all while shooting.
Rather than you walking around the screen, the screen rotates around you. As your vision arc is limited to ninety degrees (unless you find the relevant equipment) you need to be aware of enemies creeping up behind you. Mapping equipment can be found which helps you to find your way about and different levels of light are available that can boost visibility. You have a basic Grade C weapon to start with - fairly feeble but at least it has some effect - with Grade B or Grade A weapons sometimes to be found that deal more damage. Various doors can impede progress too, from the automatic ones that open a few seconds after you reach them (useless if you're fleeing enemies!) to ones that need floor panels pressed or keys found to open them. Some doors are hidden and need to be opened with a remote control - assuming you can find them.
Gameplay consists of a series of separate missions, selected from the main menu. You can choose from new (uncompleted) missions or replay completed ones and improve upon your time. Your equipment is reset to the basics every time, so you cannot carry over equipment from earlier missions - this is perhaps the fairest approach. The earliest missions cover the basics of the game as a form of tutorial but missions can be attempted in any order. Of course, since they increase in difficulty, players are advised to stick roughly to the original order...!
Graphics are delightfully old-school, even with simple text-based menus. Tiles and sprites are the order of the day, though the way they smoothly rotate when you turn and the lighting effects belie the simplicity. Sprites are a little basic and, while I can distinguish them from each other, I have no clear idea of what they actually *are*. Pickups in particular are quite small and can be hard to distinguish, though you won't pick up something you don't need (such as a weaker weapon or a dimmer light).
A neat guitar-led piece accompanies the menu screens, though the rest of the game is sans music. Sound effects are varied and accompany most actions, and can get somewhat eerie on occasion. This makes for a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere! If you tire of the music and graphics, you can switch the theme to a castle, C64 or "warm" feel with different graphics, menu music and sound effects. A nice touch!
Playable by keyboard or joypad, the controls for BOH are fairly straightforward. You have movement keys (including two for sidestepping), a key that switches between regular and sidestepping left/right controls and the ubiquitous fire button. That's about it. This does not mean this is an easy game - oh no! Your starting gun is feeble, your enemies are constantly respawning and it is all too easy to step through an automatic door without the means to get back out again. Especially beware with multi-phase missions - you carry over keys and equipment from the previous phase to the next one, and there's no going back if you miss something. If you get stuck, there's no choice but to abandon the mission. Still, since you can replay missions as often as you like, there's no real penalty to failure.
With thirty missions, you may think BOH has limited replayability. Don't be fooled - some of those missions are big, and you'll need many attempts to crack some of them. I have also since been informed that you can create your own missions, so there's plenty of scope to keep going indefinitely. On the other hand, only the challenge of the later levels will draw you back - there is no progression in terms of equipment or enemies. The features you'll find in the first levels are what you'll find in the last. Those that like to keep going in order to see the next big thing will be disappointed.
But then, that's not what BOH is about. I had some difficulty categorising the genre for this one - it's a scrolling shooter, but it's also a puzzle game in which doing tasks in the right order is sometimes paramount. BOH attempts to marry Gauntlet-style action with a bit of thinking - made tougher by the way enemies keep coming for you. It's hard to plan a route and remember where Passage C was when you're being swarmed.
BOH is actually rather fun. It's different, it's a challenge and it's something you can play as and when you feel rather than worrying about saved games and character development. How can you go wrong?
Keywords: boh review, reviews, games, boh scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.