I hereby declare myself the second (known) player in the Club to finish this game! It wasn't easy, and I say it is the third (after Street Fighter 2010 and Iridion 3D) of the honestly difficult games I have finished without cheats, savestates or faqs. Maybe I should play more hard games.
By "honestly difficult", I mean "hard but fair", and that is the highlight of Electro Man's gameplay. Your cyborg is sluggish and the level design is at times downright cheap, but the game is very winnable with reasonable love and effort. It's the kind of difficulty you get from a good shmup rather than an untested NES game. The game is basically glitch-free, a quality which would have been more difficult to achieve with more ambitious and fast-paced games.
Electro Man is a game of trial and error. It is designed to kill the player as many times as possible with high-precision obstacle courses, devious traps and the occasional dead end, knowing he'll revive and return to try again. This game is definitely Arino material. Speaking of frequent death, if this game were to be Japanese, and had a real budget, it could have been an quarter munching arcade hit back in its day.
Comment on Electro Man's Presentation
This has to be the most colorful PC game I have played in a while. Stage 7 Stage 4 Stage 8 Stage 8 Stage 3
I wonder if Crysis 3 would have commanded the same respect it has from the industry if it was this colorful. I wish modern triple-A games were more colorful. What happened to our graphics after we reached 24-bit? Wasn't having more color the point?
Having no music can be a good thing for puzzle oriented games. Puzzle games need the right sound to get players into the mood for deep thinking. An easy example is Portal, with its mostly ambient soundtrack. In Electro Man, all you get to hear between title card fanfares are a handful of event sounds, footsteps, robot battle cries and things blowing up.
Consider how this game makes you repeat the same section of the game until you able to make a good enough run. Electro Man's budget may have been sufficient for perhaps half a dozen songs. Three of the songs would have been used for the intro, ending/credits and title cards, leaving another three for the rest of the game. That would have meant three songs playing over a hundred replays. Maybe an ambient soundtrack would have worked, but the average game musician in Europe in 1992 would have been reluctant to attempt anything that wasn't hard techno. How would it have sounded?
Last Edit: Feb 20, 2013 8:58:18 GMT -5 by tengutenga
That's a really good synopsis of the game, tengutenga, and I agree with you on why the game works as well as it does! Xerxes noted in the IRC chat that Electro Man is a slow, non-scrolling platformer game built around being a slow, non-scrolling platformer. The designers were intimately familiar with the limitations of the game they had set out to make, at which point they were able to make some of the tightest levels I've seen in a platformer. It's impossible to get stuck in this game - even if that means dying and returning to a checkpoint - but even if you do get stuck, you can restart the stage at any time by hitting 'R'. It takes some getting used to for people weened on Sonic or the Super Mario Bros games, but once you adapt to it, you start to realize what they were going for and it then clicks into place.
My favorite thing about this entire game is how minimalist it is. Games these days are bloated with superfluous features and RPG mechanics, and yet here we have a game where you can only interact with the world by jumping, teleporting and shooting. This even ties into the sound design: All of the music is outside of the game proper, with the actual gameplay consisting entirely of ambient sounds. The sound of your footsteps echoing in the stages makes for an atmospheric and foreboding experience.
Still too minimalist for me, for what it is, being slow and repetitive. There's always a satisfaction in success but the whole game's more of a hedge maze with lots of teleportation and some cheapness for length. The lack of extreuous features is probably why the game exists in obscurity outside of Poland. I'd say the fact that the game is built around its own mechanics has helped the game age better than some games of the era but that's fairly faint praise - most PC games weren't hugely exceptional platformers in 1992/3.
Don't be do quick to talk about the lack of music though - the game was always intended to have a soundtrack - it just appears Epic didn't bother to release the cassette accompaniment.
I thought the cassette was there for people who didn't have soundcards? I'd be surprised if the tape had anything other than what you hear in game, and I don't think music played outside of the game technically qualifies as an in game soundtrack. If that were the case, you could argue Electro Man has the most diverse soundtrack of any game by virtue of being able to play the radio in the background.
Edit: I bring up the minimalist angle mostly because that seems to be what makes indie games so successful these days. I mean, there are quite a few indie games that I've enjoyed playing that were less complex than Electro Man!
Boiling down the mechanics until you're left with the most basic interactions can make for some compelling stuff. Electro Man isn't perfect, but you can't fault the designers for wanting to make something that is simple to play but hard to beat.
Last Edit: Feb 20, 2013 16:51:57 GMT -5 by Snarboo
Wow, Stage 8 gets easier over time. Once you've gotten all the cards the stretch to the goal is easy.
Note that you need to take one of the teleporters near the end, because there's a cannon (right in front of the last checkpoint) that moves too fast for you to not get hit from. The trick, then, is to take it, and then it'll take you to the right of another teleporter, with one of those little piston things in-between it. Hitting that will take you to the bottom, past that cannon, where it's not too hard to hit the checkpoint.
Just so y'all know.
Stage 8 is in general not especially fun because the timing on some of the cannons is random and sometimes you need them to fire a certain way to get past some screens safely. I am pretty sure it took me over an hour of play to beat, based on the fact that two episodes of The Critic passed me by during that point.