BIOTA is an indie metroidvania, and for some reason it’s really gotten to me. I really love it. I love the range of colour palettes you can select, at least one of which gives the game’s sci-fi horrors a sort of holiday ice cream chic. I love the chunkiness of the art. I love the chugging chiptune soundtrack. I love the fact that the whole thing is set on an asteroid.
More than anything, though, I am a sucker for games in which each screen is its own fixed unit of the world. For whatever reason these are the games that most feel like real places. Run off the edge of the screen in BIOTA and you end up in a new screen. Go back and the enemies have respawned. I love this.
It’s particularly useful for a metroidvania, I think, because your brain kind of snapshots each environment, the layout of the platforms and what-have-you, and so it’s easier to start building your own internal map – a map that is at least in part a map of exits and entrances, of unseen doors that connect very seen spaces.
Because you’re on an asteroid in BIOTA it’s very mining focused – the worlds I’m moving through in the first part of the game are industrial spaces, hasty shafts cobbled together with lots of fans and vents and temperature management. For some reason the pixel art captures this particularly well: I can almost feel the unpleasant heat radiating off the screen. Going deeper – an imperative in this kind of game – also means going warmer.
It’s a relief to have stuff to blast away at, particularly since that chunky art gives the Cthulhuian horrors a sort of gormless charm. I particularly love a sort of puddle of eyeballs that can stick to walls. It’s disgusting, but deeply lovable. I never tire of encountering it.
At first, BIOTA was slightly overwhelming: it’s compact but also densely riddled with tunnels – you have to make a lot of choices of the left/right, up/down variety, which are choices I always find slightly paralysing in metroidvanias. Eventually, though, I died enough, and chose enough, that I started coming back to familiar places from unfamiliar angles. So the choices are not the kind of choices that mean you miss out on anything.
I’m going to stick with BIOTA. It brings back lovely memories of Gato Roboto, another chunky metroidvania filled with charm. And it’s a pleasure to explore. And most of all I just found something incredible down in the depths and it’s genuinely changed everything.