BOH Review

Posted By | On 26th, Apr. 2010 Under Reviews


BOH isn’t a bad game. It is an indie game after all, and as such we can’t go in expecting ground breaking graphics, or the most incredibly sophisticated AI ever seen. However, what we can and should expect is gameplay that at least holds our interest for longer than a couple of hours, and it is unfortunately here that BOH ultimately fails.

The first thing you will notice when you start up BOH is the resolution. First of all, it’s native resolution is 320×240, which makes just looking at the game an eyestrain (although you can play the game in a variety of resolutions, the upscaling process leaves it looking pixelated). However, once in game, and after a quick tutorial, you will be confronted with the information that you are part of the United Defense Forces. And doing what humans do best, your task is to navigate various open levels, operating a variety of switches and levers to open doors to progress through the levels.

This could be fun if the controls weren’t so horrific. It is a top down shooter, which on it’s own would make it difficult enough to control, but this fact is compunded by the lack of in-game mouse support. The only way to control your character is by using the movement keys. You use these to aim, to move and so on, but this makes hitting your targets much more cumbersome than it should be.

Your objective in the game is to navigate a series of cavernous tunnels and caves, standing on platforms in order to make doors open. It’s a simple enough idea, and normally some alien like enemies will be waiting on the other side to devour your brains. Naturally, dying is bad, so you have to stop them using one of your weapons. Unfortunately though, there aren’t nearly enough weapons to use, and the ones you do have all have a very similar feel to them. This can make the game repetetive, and it can get boring quickly.

If you want a taste of what the game is like, check out this video;

One thing the game does have going for it in a big way though, is length. Not only is the vanilla game quite lengthy, but there are a ton of downloadable levels available for download. In addition to this, the game gives you the option to simply create your own levels.

The graphics and sound have a very retro feel to them. If you’ve seen the video above, you can see that the game is very low-res, but this does add to the atmosphere and gives BOH it’s unique retro flavour. The sound is surprisingly good, mixing gentle techno beats and bleeps with some amusingly tinny ringtone-style tunes, as well as medieval style music and rock style music. The music adapts to fit the settings, which vary between the middle ages and more modern backgrounds.

If you view yourself as a bit of an indie game buff, adding BOH wouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s unique graphics and refreshing new take on the action genre as a whole will offer something completely new to most people, but those looking for a quick thrill won’t get much satisfaction. The huge amount of downloadable content and nice soundtrack almost makes it worth the buy on it’s own, and it’s ability to run on almost any computer is definitely a plus. The emphasis here is  too much on quantity instead of quality, but overall, if you don’t mind some low production values and can look past the odd annoying bug, you could make worse purchases than BOH.

This game was reviewed on the PC.

THE GOOD

Nice combination of action and exploration, some interesting level design, many levels, cool soundtrack

THE BAD

Simple AI, overly simple gameplay, won't keep you interested for long, low resolution, limited weapon selection, some bugs

Final Verdict

BOH is an indie game by Simone Bevilacqua and is an original, retro-flavored game of exploration and action. But does it come up to scratch?

A copy of this game was provided by developer/publisher for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.
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  • Hello,

    I’m the author of the game. I’d like to comment on some parts of the review that need to be addressed. I’ll do my best to keep it as short and clear as possible.

    *** 1. “The Bad: Simple AI, overly simple gameplay, won’t keep you interested for long, low resolution, limited weapon selection, some bugs”

    “Won’t keep you interested for long” isn’t correct in absolute as there are many customers who have been and are playing the game for several tens of hours.

    “low resolution”: well, why should that be a bad thing in absolute? It’s a stylistic choice that is fundamental to achieve a true retro feeling. Indeed, you acknowledge this yourself when you say “The graphics and sound have a very retro feel to them. If you’ve seen the video above, you can see that the game is very low-res, but this does add to the atmosphere and gives BOH it’s unique retro flavour”.

    “some bugs”: could you please indicate them? If there are actually any bugs, it would be useful to know which in order to fix them.

    *** 2. The first thing you will notice when you start up BOH is the resolution. First of all, it’s not full screen. In fact, it’s 320×240, which makes just looking at the game an eyestrain.”

    BOH does support full screen: it offers a wide range of video options that allow the player to choose whether to play in a window or in a specific screen and also the zoom level. Here is a screenshot that shows the relevant menu page: http://img80.imageshack.us/img80/5660/videomodek.png (the screenshot is taken on a system that has a native resolution of 1440×900, so the available modes list will be different on other systems).

    *** 3. “And doing what humans do best, your task is to navigate various linear levels shooting anything with a pulse.”

    “linear levels”: no, most of the missions are not linear at all. Actually, BOH is first and foremost an exploration/puzzle game, so the emphasis is exactly on the complexity of the mazes. Only the first 5 tutorial-like missions are linear.

    “shooting anything with a pulse”: no, that’s not the task of the player – and, indeed, that’s the worst way to play the game! The only enemy that is absolutely necessary to kill is the end-of-mission boss, as killing it opens the exit. Killing the other enemies is damageful as it makes you waste time, which the boss uses to spawn more siblings, so fighting enemies must be restricted to the absolute minimum. Again, the core of the game is exploration, not action. Action is there to “just” pressure the player continuously while he/she is trying to find the right path.

    *** 4. “This could be fun if the controls weren’t so horrific. It is an isometric shooter, which on it’s own would make it difficult enough to control, but this fact is compunded by the lack of in-game mouse support. The only way to control your character is by using the movement keys. You use these to aim, to move and so on, but this makes hitting your targets much more cumbersome than it should be.”

    “It is an isometric shooter”: no, the view is purely top-down. The isometric view is completely different.

    As regards the controls, they work that way (and they work well, as they react immediately and are precise) because BOH is retro also in that regard – it is a precise gameplay choice – and also because, as said, the focus of the game is not on shooting. Also, controls are so simple that it takes very little to get used to them.

    *** 5. “Your objective in the game is to navigate a series of cavernous tunnels and caves, standing on platforms in order to make doors open. It’s a simple enough idea, and normally some alien like enemies will be waiting on the other side to devour your brains.”

    Yes, the concept is simple (in fact, one of the design goals was to have simple mechanics and reach complexity by means of level design), but it doesn’t boil down to just navigating tunnes and caves, and standing of platforms to open doors: there are many other elements that enrich the mazes – 7 kinds of doors (that open/close according to different mechanisms), teleports, staircases, traps, floors of different kinds, obstacles of various kinds, etc., not to mention that it’s the overall design of the mazes that makes the game challenging and, ultimately, intriguing.

    *** 6. “If you want a taste of what the game is like, check out this video;”

    That (unofficial) video is does not show the game properly as it has been recorded by a person who had just started playing the game, and so his approach/strategy was completely wrong. A better idea is given by the official trailer at http://www.bohthegame.com/trailer.html. If you really want a video from an indipendent source, here’s another one a fan put on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pnvHxC9BN8 (although it’s a bit outdated, so the improvements of the latest expansions don’t show).

    *** 7. “If you’ve seen the video above, you can see that the game is very low-res, but this does add to the atmosphere and gives BOH itâs unique retro flavour. The sound is surprisingly good, mixing gentle techno beats and bleeps with some amusingly tinny ringtone-style tunes.”

    Actually, not just that: f.ex. there are also (prog-)rock, pop, medieval, etc. music pieces. It has not been mentioned, but the game is entirely themeable, so each and every audio/video aspect depends on the chosen theme: in a theme you are a soldier in a military/alien base, in another you are a knight in a castle, in another you find yourself in an abstract geometrical world and so on.

    • Will Kenny

      Thanks for the comment.
      1. Although I have and do aknowledge the large amount of playability on offer, I personally found the game too uninspiring to play for long periods of time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the game at first, but there was little lasting impact.
      As for bugs, I consistently had an issue trying to exit the tutorial level, where it simply wouldn’t let me.

      2. I have rectified the review to reflect the ability to switch to full screen, but the native resolution remains small, and full screen looks pixelated.

      3. I apologize for the mistake here, edited. However, the AI does mean that enemies will run at you as soon as you enter a room, which means you then have to kill them.

      4. It’s true it does not take long to get used to the controls, but it is still cumbersome to aim.

      5. Edited.

      6. Replaced with GT video.

      7. Edited.

      I hope this clears up some things for you,and I do apologize for the errors. Let me know of any other issues.

    • Hi will,

      first of all, thanks for the amendments. Yes, there are indeed a few things that I feel need to be discussed further.

      *** 1. “Although I have and do aknowledge the large amount of playability on offer, I personally found the game too uninspiring to play for long periods of time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the game at first, but there was little lasting impact.”

      What I wanted to point out is that, unlike you, many others instead actually find the game exciting and challenging to the point of playing it for hours and hours, so the statement “The bad: won’t keep you interested for long” isn’t so absolutely true as it sounds.

      “As for bugs, I consistently had an issue trying to exit the tutorial level, where it simply wouldn’t let me.”

      Well, there are 5 tutorial missions, so, first of all, which one are you talking about? Also, what do you mean by “exit the [tutorial] level”, precisely? That the program got totally stuck? That you couldn’t even abort? That the exit wouldn’t open? That, although the program was working as normal, it was impossible to go anywhere?
      Please let me know, it’s important to me.

      *** 2. “I have rectified the review to reflect the ability to switch to full screen, but the native resolution remains small, and full screen looks pixelated.”

      Of course, that’s the whole point of the low resolution! Pixels are intended to be big, because they’re beautiful, because that’s how things were done back in the day (although brand-new, BOH is strongly retro), because that allows humans to draw graphics pixel-by-pixel using just a paint program a mouse (in short, pixel art).

      *** 3. “I apologize for the mistake here, edited. However, the AI does mean that enemies will run at you as soon as you enter a room, which means you then have to kill them.”

      Actually no. Let me explain.
      At the moment there 7 different kinds of enemies, each with their own AI and characteristics. In normal conditions, only 2 of them chase you constantly (and one of them can even fly): the other ones use different strategies to attack (I said “in normal conditions” because there are two exceptions: when you get too close to an enemy, it will attack you regardless of its normal behaviour; also, when the boss is summoned, it forces the pre-existing enemies to go berserk: their power, speed and resistance gets doubled and their behaviour is turned into a reckless seek&destroy one). This means that not always one is forced to fight enemies – and, actually, avoiding them altogether as much as possible is the best strategy. Of course, sometimes killing is the best move, but that’s not a constant of the game.
      Again, the real challenge of the game is understanding the maze, how to open the various passages, the order in which to explore the various areas, discovering the hidden parts and so on. The enemies are “just” a disturbance element that adds a thrill to puzzle solving. But still BOH is prominently a puzzle game, not an action one, as testified also by the simple fact that if one explores the mazes and solves the riddles, he manages to go on, but if he just keeps killing, he goes nowhere.

      *** 4. “It’s true it does not take long to get used to the controls, but it is still cumbersome to aim.”

      I’ll try to explain with a simple example. Let’s consider soccer for a moment: wouldn’t it be much easier to control the ball (also) with the hands? We’re much better at handling things with hands rather than with feet, after all.
      What I want to say is that in BOH the player is asked to get good at controlling the character in a certain way because that’s the game. It’s all part of the retro feeling. Sure, aiming with mouse would have made shooting easier, but that would change the gameplay, and that’s not desired. The player is asked to improve other skills. Adding homing-missiles also would make shooting easier, but that would make the game even less involving. Adding infinite blast’em-all nukes would getting rid of baddies even easier, but where would be the real challenge, the real fun?

    • Having received no answer regarding the bug you mentioned, I’m forced to guess.

      From what you said, to me it seems clear that the point where you got stuck is one of those rooms that are accessed through an automatic passage (the only tutorial mission that does have it is: “2. connections”), which closes automatically after you step in between and then move away. Therefore, what happened is that after passing a passage of that kind you found yourself in a closed room that, depending of the mission, either seemed to have no way out or a locked exit. In the former case, the solution was using the remote control (found in the same room) to open a hidden passage; in the latter case, the solution was to step on the summoning point and killing the boss. An example can be found in the trailer: skip the first 1:20 and watch it through the very end.

      Could you please tell me whether my guess is correct?

  • Apologies for the lowercase “w”, I spotted the typo only after making the post.


 

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