I was fortunate to receive an advance NEScape review copy from its creator, Kevin Hanley. What Kevin has created is a brand-spanking new game designed specifically for the NES. It works on original hardware or decent modern clones and comes in a spiffy, see-through blue cartridge that makes it hard not to be intrigued.
It’s novel enough for any developer to make games for retro hardware, and I think any retrogamer would be into it. And if Kevin’s current KickStarter campaign is any indication, a lot of gamers have faith that NEScape will deliver. Just a week into his campaign and Kevin has already exceeded his Kickstarter goal by $10,000. Not too shabby.
So what’s NEScape all about? Well, it’s… a mystery!
No really. It’s a mystery adventure game. Actually, it’s an 8-bit take on the escape room crazy that’s been going on lately.
Two quick points on that. One: I’ve never tried an escape room and have no idea what to expect. And two: I’m terrible at adventure games. I always felt like the NES controller was ill-suited for navigating menus and much of the interface required in adventure games. And behold: Kevin informed me you can actually use an adapter for the SNES mouse to play NEScape that way.
Okay, two more points. One: I don’t have a NES/SNES adapter for the mouse, but two: the interface in NEScape is streamlined and simplified enough that it plays just fine with a standard NES controller. Actually, the whole game is pretty well streamlined. There are no clunky menus, no confusing icons. Kevin has really brought the adventure genre into modern times. Just...you know—on not-so-modern cartridges.
Anyway, I’m sworn to secrecy about specific puzzles/spoilers, that kind of thing. So don’t expect too much of that. But I can safely say there are a lot of puzzles. And a variety of them, ranging from traditional adventure game “combine this item with that one” puzzles (that actually make sense) to a simple “find-the-difference” puzzle and some other, more interactive puzzles. There is also a slider puzzle early in the game that had me ripping out what precious hair I have left. Eventually I figured that one out too, though.
There are a few puzzles that had me stumped and I had to refer to the cheat sheet the dev sent me. So if you’re into puzzle games, you should feel sufficiently challenged.
The graphics are as fancy as they can be in an 8-bit cartridge. Everything is very cleanly done and looks good. The music perfectly fits the atmosphere of the game and the atmosphere of the era. It’s great.
I really don’t want to give away too much of the game. They’ve made their Kickstarter funding already, so that should tell you something.
If old-style new games are your jam, definitely check this one out.