Who does not love a game with a little atmosphere? Deadeus (pronounced “deddyoos”) is an indie horror title for the original Game Boy – or emulators thereof – and it has it in spades. The game has been available for a while as a name-your-price download, but it is about to get a physical release on a suitable color black cartridge, as pre-orders close next Monday. If you are a fan of the retro games or genre, you should definitely play it, and if you have the necessary hardware, it should fit right into any great collection.
Do not be fooled by Deadeus‘Pokémon-like graphics and style of play. This game has dark undertones and is even more delightful for it. The contrast between the Nintendo trees from the 90s and picket fences with the themes of cult, ritual and murder could not be stronger, but it feels completely appropriate. You would not know it by playing it, but most of the game was made by one person and is a great showcase for Chris Maltby̵
As most good horror stories do, Deadeus starts with a nightmare. An angry god comes to our protagonist at night with hunger for meat. Satisfy your hunger and he can save the village, but it’s a catch – you only have three days to figure out how, and with 11 closures on offer, all decisions matter.
“The idea for the game, which mostly came from a cartoon I’ve written forever, had this little piece that I could call a story and put into this Game Boy game. […] everything is taken from it, all the art is my own, and everything is based on that story. Adam Birch, Deadeustold the creator of Engadget.
This makes a lot more sense when you know that Birch is an artist by profession. He works with UI design for British game developer Coatsink and makes his own suitable macabre designs on the site. A scan of his original pieces is all you need to know that every game he made always had dark details – especially the cut images, pulling you out of the cozy RPG mood and into the rat belly of anything weird. further in this godforsaken city you live.
About that city; This is where you will spend all your time. That is, this is not a sprawling landscape with war stations and rival villages. You can navigate the play area very quickly, but it does not feel too limited. Deadeus‘time mechanic means that each new day brings new things to find and discover, and also nicely adds a layer of strategy, depending on which story you follow. No spoilers here, but there are definitely things you can miss the first day that will stop you from finding any of the 11 endings.
Birch admits that while the time mechanic allows the relatively small world to expand in other ways, it also introduced some challenges. GB Studio makes game development much easier, almost without a code, but with a project like Deadeus, it also introduces the potential for many errors – signs that appear on day two that should not be there anymore, for example. These were all ironed out of course, but added some unexpected challenges.
Of course, there are far greater limitations when creating something for a decade-old platform. Especially if art is your thing. With a Game Boy screen, there is a limit to how many unique eight-eight tiles you can place on the screen. You can not just draw a complete picture, whatever you want. So it was almost like a puzzle that put it all together, “added Birch. You can see below how some of his designs had to be crushed to work on the tough bitty screen.
Birch’s decision to use GB Studio also helped him find a partner for the physical release. A few publishers had contacted him to produce cartridge versions of Deadeus, but it was Spacebot he eventually joined. The team had already made a name for themselves Dragonborne, an RPG also made with GB Studio.
But why go about releasing a game on a cassette that requires special hardware to play? Especially if the same game is available for free? “I just wanted to put the thing I made out there for people to play, and with the slightest barrier to entry. So it’s free. ”In Birch. “I wanted someone to be able to play it, and that was a little important to me.” But a physical liberation was always something he considered, “it was one of the things I always have in mind, I just did not know how it would happen.” Spacebot was the answer.
Developing indie games, especially in the retro world, is easy to see as a rarity. But the appeal is also easy to explain. The limitations of the platforms make it more manageable for individuals and small teams to work with. In addition, the back catalog with titles to draw inspiration from is huge and varied. And of course, it’s the seductive lure of nostalgia – even decades later, it still looks magical to see a game you’ve made on a real Game Boy (or modern physical emulation hardware).
Back in our nightmare-infused village, things soon start to get weird. Townspeople are beginning to suggest that this is not the first time an angry deity is threatening the city. People close to you believe that strange things have happened, and they have also had the same nightmare. As with the genre, insignificant statements often hide important clues. Sometimes they are just insignificant statements. Fun is divination which is which.
Don’t expect endless hours of playing time though. Even with 11 completions to discover, you can reach a full end in less than two hours. At that point, you should have enough clues to go back and find the other stories with relative ease. But you will like to do it, and at least one story is sophisticated enough to really make you think about timing and strategy to avoid a very simple dead end. Especially this one I have not yet completed.
For Birch’s part, he says that he still feels a bit outsider on the whole indie game developer thing, but is already working on the follow-up title, which sounds even more elaborate. “It’s probably my favorite Game Boy game Super Mario Land 2. And it’s like that kind of biggest inspiration [for it]”But of course Birch will add his own corpse details. “So what if we did, but like, much darker and a little more story-based?” Super Mario Land 2 with Metroidvania aspects and globs of moody atmosphere? Sign me in.
You can download Deadeus here or pre-order the physical release here.