Imagine yourself in a thin, dark corridor with only a modest weapon and flashlight to guide you. Your only company are the monsters patrolling the area looking for you as a meal, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on your fears and claustrophobia, you realize the monsters may only be the least of your worries.
Welcome to Simone Bevilacqua’s BOH, a retro top-down action title that has players moving through a maze of rooms and corridors, relying on split-second reactions to fend off monsters and find ways out of trap-laden levels. I recently had a chance to run through the gauntlet, here are some of my thoughts.
BOH is a 2D top-down shooter with complex puzzle components, You start the game by choosing a level, and as you jump in you’ll find quickly the sight is limited by what you can, and more importantly your light can, see in front of you. There are upgraded flashlights to be found in some areas which are a boon. Particularly the the 360 view, as monsters are invisible out of your general light vision.
As I made my way through several levels, I found out quickly that the longer I took, the more enemies I had on my hands, like homing missiles (actually one enemy is exactly that) they pursue you until either they kamikaze into you or you destroy them with several shots from your pistol. I developed a lure and destroy method where I would stretch them out down a long corridor and get several shots off while backing up. Staying disciplined to that concept made the levels easier to deal with. Though there are only a half dozen monster types, each creature has unique AI, so you can’t expect the same treatment as the time before.
I definitely had some growing pains once the timed rooms and traps forced me down the more dangerous path. The game’s difficulty went from hard to at times near impossible as I was forced to toughen up and really focus on minimizing damage and concentrate always on what was directly in front of me; which was more often than not a large and confusing labyrinth of death. You must be on your toes to react in time to what’s coming, and a photographic memory wouldn’t hurt either to remember certain passageways and locked doors you’ll need to come back for once those aloof keys are retrieved. With 35 missions in all, the game provides plenty of content to work your way through.
BOH may be one of the most immersive games I’ve played period, no small feat considering its lack of advanced graphics. The atmosphere is instead captured by its difficult, varied gameplay. Not to mention, the game is extremely customizable, before you even start in the options menu there are several themes to choose from with entirely different graphics, music and sound.
You can’t just play BOH and sort of care what’s going on. You have to play it at 100% or not at all, and while that appealed to me, that ‘no compromise’ attitude caters to a very specific audience. Casual players will be quickly overwhelmed and simply won’t stick around. Though it’s clear that was never the intention of the dev anyway.
As for sounds, the music around the levels is simple and captures two main ‘feels’ of the game: retro and ‘you’re all alone.’ As for in-level, the only music you’ll be hearing is the screeching of monsters and the dripping of leaky pipes, extremely atmospheric.
To understand the game’s story you need only understand the story behind the development of it. BOH comes from an Italian expression that means ‘I Don’t Know’, Simone Bevilacqua’s open development plan prompted him to give it the name. As the title entered development, Bevilacqua didn’t quite know where it was going. By the time the project was released, the term still fit with the customizable and varied gameplay that was offered.
BOH brings a lot to the table for retro lovers. An extremely challenging game with a simple exterior and complex innards. Simply the more you’re into the game the more you’re going to get out of it. The dev has continued to release new content updates for the game, releasing Update9 for the title in late January of this year.
[The developer/publisher gave DIYgamer.com a copy of this game for review purposes.]