Monday, 29 July 2013

Homebrew Review - Alter Ego (NES - PC - Android)

Time for the old Switcheroo!

Alter Ego is a wonderful little homebrew platform puzzler that first appeared on the ZX Spectrum in 2011 (yes, 2011!). Now, fans of brain scratching single screen platformers can enjoy the switching action on PC, Android and even the awesome 8-bit NES.

Based on the idea popularised in Binary Land, Alter Ego has you controlling two characters at the same time. Your main fellow is a little white chap who looks a little similar to Bomberman. The second is his 'alter ego', a black shadowy version of himself. When you move your character left or right, this shadow form will move in the opposite direction (but not up or down - in this case he will copy you). You have a limited number of 'switches' at your disposal per level which, when used, swap the two character's positions. The alter ego is invulnerable to the roaming skulls that patrol the stages and can walk in mid-air so this allows you to move him to areas the main character cannot access. Once there you switch characters and continue as the white character. Using this tactic, you must collect all the little square collectibles to complete each single screen stage. It's an extremely well executed mechanic and one that becomes familiar within minutes of playing the game.

(NES) The 8-bit NES version has individually named screens - 
just like the good old C64 and ZX Spectrum days!

The graphics in all versions are gorgeous. Simplistic yet colourful and containing bags of retro charm. The PC and Android versions have extremely colourful visuals with some lovely lighting and special effects - including a neat trail effect when you switch characters and even some weather. The NES visuals stick closely to the style seen on that platform and are equally pleasing on the eye, probably more so for fans of 8-bit graphics (myself included). The music is also great, with an extremely catchy soundtrack that changes every few levels so you never get sick of it. The NES version is predictably my favourite as it perfectly emulates the chiptune style heard in classic Nintendo games such as Mario and Megaman.

(NES) The 8-bit look is replicated perfectly for the Nintendo system.

The game throws in some curveballs as you progress to keep you on your toes - such as having coloured collectibles that can only be obtained by either the main character or his alter ego, and disintegrating bridges that mean you can only walk over them once. It is a very challenging game, but never too infuriating - a sign of good game design. You have a limited number of lives in this NES version, but if you can always use your emulator's save state feature if you don't relish the thought of having to start from the beginning when you die or switch off the game. The NES version also plays alot faster then the other versions, with your character moving along at a much quicker pace. I find this adds to the tension and sense of action, but it is a personal thing and others may prefer the slightly more sedate pace of the PC and Android versions.

(PC) The colourful graphics and cute characters make the game incredibly charming to look at.

Everything about Alter Ego screams quality. The presentation is superb - right down to the individually named stages that bring to mind the single screen platformers of the C64 and ZX Spectrum days - and, most importantly, Alter Ego is lots of fun and is rewarding to play. All versions are free and I highly recommend them all. Head over to the developer's website (here) and download Alter Ego (completely free of charge) on your preferred platform.

The PC version has some lovely lighting and special graphical effects. 
Check out the trail as your characters switch position.

Title : Alter Ego
Developer : Retrosouls
Year : 2012
Systems : NES, PC, Android
Also on : ZX Spectrum (by Denis Grachev)

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