B.I.O.T.A., from developer Small Bros and publisher RetroVibe, is a game that took us by surprise. Going into its palette-swapping 2D platforming, we expected something fairly conventional. Instead, what we got was a fast-paced, action adventure filled with both enjoyment and some frustration.
B.I.O.T.A. is a 2D “metroidvania action-platformer” set in a mining colony on a distant planet in the far far future. Megacorporations of the future discover a resource known as Viridium that allows human society to thrive. Soon enough interplanetary space travel is established and a prominent corporation seizes control of most Viridium mines. Things, however, go awry when a Viridium mine unearths something unusual and the mining colony goes dark.
This is where you as the player come in. As a part of a mercenary squad, you’ve been sent to this planet to investigate just what the heck is happening and why all communications have been cut off. Hmmm… Where have we seen something similar to this recently? (*Cough Metroid Dread Cough*)
In any case, players will take on the role of one of a handful of mercenaries from Gemini Squad. Each member of Gemini Squad has a basic biography which explains where they are from as well as their combat speciality. Players are most likely to pick one mercenary and stick with them throughout the entirety of the game – except for a particular segment where you have to play as a specific character.
The controls in B.I.O.T.A. are rock solid for platforming and, thankfully, this helps the game to succeed where so many others fail. You can jump, shoot, and platform with ease – using either a keyboard or a controller.
As you delve into the depths of the mines, you’ll soon encounter an alien plague known as “The Agent”. This goo-like substance is what caused the mining colony to go dark and, naturally, it’s up to you and your squad of mercenaries to get to the bottom of this all and defeat the plague. The story is told through text conversations with other characters and, overall, it’s cheesy, camp, and definitely reminiscent of an ’80s or ’90s action movie.
B.I.O.T.A. also makes use of a gimmick which lets you swap the game’s colour palette. There are plenty of palettes to choose from and players are likely to settle for one that’s most comfortable on the eys. Unfortunately, palette swapping does very little else for the game and we feel as if this was a missed opportunity to expand upon the mechanic. Maybe some variation in enemy attack patterns or your own attacks could have been worked into the palette swaps but, disappointingly, this isn’t the case here.
Also, some of the palette swaps can lead to eye strain and could adversely affect you if you have any sort of colour blindness or sensitivity to specific colours. The developers have included a photosensitivity warning at the start of the game, so do consider this should you choose to pick up B.I.O.T.A.
The soundtrack of B.I.O.T.A. is fantastic, packed with adrenaline-pumping electronic synth music that’s a perfect match for the genre. The introductory segment is voiced, but that’s about it – the rest is conveyed by the aforementioned text conversations and you’d be forgiven for just skipping through them just to get back to the actual gameplay. The sound effects used throughout the game are great though and everything from explosions to special weapons all sound amazing.
The gameplay of B.I.O.T.A. is both its rise and fall. Platforming is immensely fun in the early segments of the game but after a while, things start to get tedious. There’s less of a “Metroid” feel to this game since you don’t really explore the entirety of the map in various interlinked segments. Rather, it’s all sectioned off and there isn’t much real exploration necessary since there aren’t any hidden power-ups or pathways in the game’s rooms either.
There are plenty of areas of the game that also involve a bit of precarious platforming where, if you make even the slightest mistake, you will die repeatedly and this isn’t fun at all. Thankfully you can save whenever you want as long as enemies aren’t around. There are interspersed save points in levels, however, an auto-save would have been preferred to help alleviate some frustration. You will die quite often and, if you save when your health is low, you will load back in with the same low health.
At least you can make use of a teleporter to take you back to the surface if you end up getting too damaged. This does, however, mean that you need to slog through some areas again though and when enemies respawn in every room, the fatigue sets in. As you progress, you will be able to upgrade your limited health pool as well as your special weapon ammo count though, honestly, your special weapon isn’t really necessary to defeat enemies in B.I.O.T.A.
Each area in B.I.O.T.A.’s mining colony has its own set of enemies and a unique aesthetic which is again, standard fare for a 2D “Metroidvania” platforming game. The game, therefore, does a fairly good job of retaining the essence of 2D platformers from the GameBoy era of video games. If you’ve played a title like Kunai or Gato Roboto previously, you’ll find B.I.O.T.A. to be quite similar. There is some backtracking and you can get lost in the game (as well as frustrated) but, with a bit of trial and error, you will eventually make your way through it. Oh, and there are vehicles – think Mechs and more – that you can pilot too! These segments are quite fun to play through.
There’s also an arcade mode available in the game to round out the package but players can breeze through this in around 8 minutes or so while trying to rack up high scores. This mode was great and we wish that the developers could also have expanded upon it further. It’s good fun trying to defeat enemies or complete tasks while specific win conditions. The level of satisfaction you get after successfully completing a challenge in the Arcade mode is great.
Overall, B.I.O.T.A. is a good 2D action-platformer. There are a lot of tried and trusted gameplay mechanics here and the game’s gorgeous visuals, combined with the palette swapping feature, create a visual feast for the eyes. It’s just a shame that this could have been so much more and it feels as if the potential it has was squandered. Maybe future updates to the game will refine it and improve upon it but as it stands right now, B.I.O.T.A is a straightforward, enjoyable yet frustrating 2D action-platformer shooter with some good ideas but also some underwhelming implementation.
A review code for B.I.O.T.A. was provided to gameblur by the publisher
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Audio8/10 Very Good
- Gorgeous retro graphics
- Excellent soundtrack
- Tried and trusted gameplay formula
- Palette swapping feature
- Lack of a proper Auto-Save
- Can get tedious over time
- Not really a Metroidvania - more linear and action-centric platformer shooter
- Palette swapping feature and the Arcade mode could have been expanded upon