There was something magical about 8/16-bit RPG’s when they were in their prime. The hardware might have been limited but developers worked within their limitations and came up with creative ways to expand on the game. High Strangeness definitely borrows a number of aspects of this era and genre by creating its own “12-bit” gameplay mechanic allowing you to switch between 8-bit and 16-bit mode; each granting you different perspective to tackle tasks.
You start off as Boyd, a regular teenage boy which has his world turned upside-down at a rather rapid rate. Things are changing and a confused Boyd is put into a situation where his actions are set to alter existence as we know it. The story is typical of what you would have expected from an action RPG in the early 90’s with a few standout moments, as well as flaws along the way. The dialogue has been excellently executed with many references to iconic retro titles which fits in perfectly with the games aesthetics.
The top-down visuals are accompanied by a very basic hit-and-run styled method of combat. Boyd for the most part uses a flashlight for melee attacks, firecracker as bombs and CD’s as projectiles. The stamina meter prevents you from spamming your various attacks but adds very little actual difficulty when first introduced to this feature. It’s a very rudimentary system but it works.
As you would expect there are various puzzles to tackle along the way. Generally these are quite simple and can be completed in a matter of minutes. You will need to understand one or two aspects of the game though, specifically the transmission between the 8- and 16-bit worlds. Various enemies relate differently depending on the environment. It’s little things like this that make it an interesting trait. You are allowed to make use of combo’s as well as run in the 16-bit mode and navigating in a more primitive manner when in the 8-bit mode. This is a nice touch but it does get a little tiresome and you’ll probably find yourself sticking to one or the other for the majority of the game as it is rather underutilised.
The greatest downside to High Strangeness isn’t the lack of difficulty levels but rather its brief length. The game can be completed in under 6 hours. This in itself isn’t an issue, but High Strangeness is an RPG, and RPG’s generally last longer than that. The game has some really fun ideas but towards the end things feel rushed and thrown together. The retro themed audio and visuals are spot on and when first booting up the game my expectations were overflowing. It’s a game that you won’t hate, not in the least bit. It will however have you feel that it didn’t live up to its potential even for an indie title. If you are looking for a quick adventure with a ridiculous storyline and some great writing, not to mention a great final boss fight, be sure to pick up High Strangeness. If the driving factor behind a game is its length and longevity, maybe this won’t be worth your while.