After seeing the name of the publisher, 8-Bit Legit, you already know what you’re in for: an 8-Bit experience that was designed to be played on original NES hardware, yet pushes the console to its limits in order to provide one hell of a great experience. Project Blue, is no exception, with it’s Mega Man style platforming – yet beyond those inspirations lies something far more intricate than you may have expected.
For better and for worse.
BLUE IN THE FACE
In the city of Neo Hong Kong lies a secret lab running tests on the homeless young people that they’ve taken from the streets of Dezone. One of these subjects, codenamed Blue, manages to escape his containment unit and now has to find a way to get out and bring down the organisation that gave him his fighting powers.
With Blue’s incredible powers of [checks notes] jumping and shooting, Blue will need to traverse a variety of increasingly difficult platforming challenges whilst blasting anything that tries to stop him.
Things start out relatively relaxing, even though the low number of hearts can prove to be rather punishing for the careless, but once you get accustomed to the movement physics with its gradual acceleration it all starts to feel rather great. As with Mega Man, which is a very clear inspiration for the game, the platforming is where the true joy lies and the developers have created some really great challenges for you to overcome. Despite each of the worlds being quite expansive, progression is still pretty linear with Blue usually only having one exit from a screen, but it still has the feeling of a Metroidvania by virtue of its sheer scope alone.
The game’s combat isn’t quite as satisfying, as there aren’t any real upgrades to be had, instead opting for temporary power ups that either have limited usage or are lost upon death. That’s not to say it’s particularly bad, but the fighting never really held a candle to the platforming.
Except, of course, when it comes to the boss fights. At the end of each area, you’ll be tasked with taking down a boss and these encounters can be a lot of fun. Whilst the first boss is the weakest of the bunch, the rest are surprisingly well made as you try to take them down.
ToggleSwitch did a great job at making a high quality NES style platformer, and they’ve really shown off what the console is capable of. With gorgeous visuals and a catchy chiptune soundtrack, this would have been an instant classic had it been released back in the 80s.
If you’ve read my other 8 Bit Legit reviews, you’ll no doubt be anticipating the criticism I have about the game. Whilst this game still has the usual control issue of having the jump and attack buttons mapped to the ‘wrong’ buttons (without any option to change), there is a problem far worse here. Unlike other titles from the publisher that typically have some kind of saving functionality (even if it’s just a password), this game has absolutely no way to maintain your progress. If the game was short, like Nescape!, it would have been forgivable; however, Project Blue is both lengthy and difficult making beating it in a single session a big ask. Sure, there are infinite continues but losing all your lives will set you back quite a fair bit and it really starts to get infuriating the further you progress.
Given that many NES games of the time had some type of saving functionality (especially the bigger ones), this omission is a really big flaw that will no doubt stop many from getting the game. In fact, I was unable to see the game through to the end due to failing in the final area and losing all my motivation to continue. Normally I’d take a break and play something else, but the game wouldn’t allow me to do that. My options were to either keep on at it, or just exit the game. I chose the latter. Considering you could play the NES rom on an emulator and have access to save states, it’s a shame they didn’t bother adding any to the modern console ports. This version does have the usual manual – which is absolutely stunning – and I really don’t see why they can’t add in some other extras to help make the game more appealing to a wider audience.
Project Blue has some superb 8-bit level design that feels absolutely thrilling to play; yet, it’s hard to really recommend due to the game’s length and difficulty running counter to the lack of any saving functionality whatsoever. It’s a shame really as this could have been the best game in 8 Bit Legit’s catalogue, but this one major flaw will be hard for many to overlook.