Review: Arkedo Series

ArkedoSeries

Individually released on Xbox Live Indie Games, Arkedo Series is a new PSN digital bundle of three separate releases, 01 Jump!, 02 Swap! and 03 Pixel!, each with a distinct vintage art style and a focused game mechanic. Arkedo Studio has earned more recent fame for developing Hell Yeah! Wraith of the Dead Rabbit (a fantastic game by the way), and after playing through the Arkedo Series I can see where they started their quest to create the perfect jump mechanic.  

The first of the series, 01 Jump!, is a retro darling. Jumping around a richly colored 8-bit style level, the object is to collect bombs before they blow up, all the while avoiding various enemies like crabs, bats, snakes and, in my opinion the worst, skeletons that throw up bones.  Timing is everything in this game.  Spiked floors as well as ones that drop from the ceiling are tough enough to contend with, but then the challenge only ramps up another notch once floor pieces begin to fall away after walking over them.  If that wasn’t challenge enough, the game offers only one play through per session.  By that I mean no matter how far you get into the game, once you have lost all lives, the game starts you back at the beginning.  Retro to the max!  

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For those times when death is unavoidable, hearts which add additional lives to your pool can often be found right before a particularly nasty sequence of environmental harm.  The game is fun and each level is fairly quick to complete, but the longer I play I do find myself wishing that there was a way to skip past the first five or ten levels (after they’ve already been completed of course) in order to make further progression toward the end feel less like a grind.

The second of the compiled games is 02 Swap! which puts a spin on match four games by adding a Tetris-like timer to the game board.  Rows of colored gems are added from the bottom over time, eventually raising and filling the playing field. If a column of gems reaches the top, the game is over. Swapping gems to match four makes those disappear, either vertically or horizontally.  What adds to the strategy of the game is the fact that colors can be swapped (one gem at a time) from one side of the playing field to the other.  A roadmap of sorts is displayed on the right of the gem board which shows the progression of a round.  Each time four are matched, progression to the end of the round is made.  

ArkedoSeries_Swap

Along the way there are checkpoints which increase the speed at which new rows of gems are added from the bottom.  In later rounds more colored gems are added as well as bombs and clocks.  Bombs explode and destroy large sections of gems and clocks stop upward movement of gems for a short period of time, allowing for gems close to the top to hopefully get swapped out to keep the round alive.  During the early stages of the game where time is slow, 02 Swap! feels almost zen-like and delivers wonderful reward feedback for each set of gems destroyed.  In later levels where the timer is truly the enemy, the game offers a frantic urgency while continuing to give a satisfying sense of reward for destroying matched gems.

03 Pixel!, the Arkedo trilogy closer, returns to pixelated 2D jumping, starring a playful cat in a world of increasingly challenging platform levels. Like other traditional platformers, 03 Pixel! has few controls to master: walk, jump, run, and a running jump are the basics. Pix the cat, however, does have the unique ability of filling a meow meter by stomping on five enemies in a row and then uncorking a meow roar to take out a line of baddies. Some objects in the world, when jumped on while holding the run button, will also shoot Pix high into the air.

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The stages are fairly straightforward, but offer some hidden collectibles by way of zooming in on subtly different blocks that make up each level.  The collectibles either recharge health or are, as the game cheekily calls them, “pointless collectibles” that offer nothing more than a reason to replay a level. As progress is made through each of the six levels, the difficulty increases. Perfect timing is a must, as well as quick reflexes in order to bounce over certain enemies while simultaneously avoiding spikes and landing on small ledges.  

My only complaint about 03 Pixel! is that the buttons cannot be re-mapped. Running is mapped to the square button and jump is mapped to the cross button.  In the later levels, run jumping is pretty much the only way to reach any of the higher platforms and I found myself missing a jump because I couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold the controller while holding down the run button AND successfully tapping the jump button at the same time.  Maybe it’s just me, but I would’ve liked having the option to re-map the run button to one of the triggers.

With three fun, bright games for just $6, Arkedo Series is a retro indie collection that can’t be beat. Even with a mostly blocky 8-bit art style, the games are visually stunning, provide great old-school challenge, and overall–despite the somewhat awkward button mapping in 03 Pixel!–have tight, responsive controls. Anyone who missed the chance to play these three gems on XBLIG should jump at the chance to download the whole set on their PS3.

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Pros:
+ 3 unique games for cheap
+ Vibrant retro art
+ Tight, responsive controls
+ 02 Swap! offers fun zen-like gameplay

Cons:
– Difficulty ramps up considerably in later stages for all three games
– No custom control mapping in 03 Pixel!
– Making progress in 01 Jump! becomes a grind without a continue option

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN (previously released on Xbox Live Indie Games)
Publisher: Sanuk Games
Developer: Arkedo Studio
Release Date: 10/16/2012
Genre: Platform/Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.