How Metroidvania is it? Not a Metroidvania. Defining the genre of 8 Eyes is a bit awkward. On its surface it’s a similar to the Classic Style Castlevania games, but it has elements of Mega Man and Simon’s Quest. It’s really not a Metroidvania though, but it may be interesting for Metroidvania Fans to check out.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~3 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for 8 Eyes was provided by Piko Interactive
Buy 8 Eyes if you like…
- Classic-vania Games
- Simple Riddles
- Hardcore NES Difficulty
- Interesting Local Co-op Gimmicks
- Video Game History
▼ Review continues below ▼
I want to begin this review by saying I absolutely love what Piko Interactive is doing. I had seen their name a few times going through my Steam queue, but I hadn’t really become familiar with their work until they brought this game to my attention. 8 Eyes is an old NES game released in 1988 in Japan, and 1990 in North America, and while it’s had some influence on games that I’ve played I hadn’t even heard of it until it hit Steam. When I first saw it, I just assumed it was a new game using the old 8-bit style. That’s what Piko Interactive does, they take older titles forgotten to the ages and preserve them for posterity’s sake – providing a legitimate and legal avenue for all of us to enjoy them. The emulation is sufficient for my purposes, though I do have to point out that accessing the save state screen and control configuration was a little confusing; you have to right click on your mouse of all things. Adding some instruction on that would be helpful. I strongly urge you to support Piko Interactive’s Efforts though, and anyone with a love of this medium as an art form should get behind companies like this wherever they can.
With that said, I’m not sure 8 Eyes is a game I can recommend to general audiences.
8 Eyes is a very interesting game, with a unique core concept that technically is revisited with more modern games like La-Mulana, but there isn’t any game that does it quite like 8 Eyes does. From the outset, you’re given seven levels to choose from, and the order you tackle them is important. At the end of each level “you get a new sword”, which doesn’t really change the way you play, but you do more damage to the boss of one of the other levels. In this way it’s sort of like Mega Man, except instead of getting a cool robot master weapon, you just get a minor difference in scale that doesn’t convey at all where you should go next.
The levels themselves play out like the Classic-Vania titles in that you fight through a gauntlet of monsters until you reach the boss. Enemies come at you relentlessly, and you don’t really have the ability to stun them or avoid damage in a manner that you’re probably used to. Your sword has pathetic range with no advanced technique that I was able to discover to bridge the gap of your weakness. The trick, as it turns out, is the game’s primary combat gimmick – you have control of a falcon companion to assist you with damage and distraction. The bird can be released and called back with some initially awkward button presses. When airborne he will fly back and forth and swoop down when commanded. Not only is this aerial friend necessary to hit switches outside of your reach, but it’s one of the only ways I’ve discovered to attack enemies without putting yourself in the precarious position of trading hits. The bird has a separate HP bar, and the enemies seem to like targeting him giving you ample opportunity to stab them in the back in the meantime. Micromanaging both your companion and your swordsman can be a brain splitting task, which is why I highly recommend giving a friend the second controller and getting good at the game together. Even in that circumstance though, it took my co-op buddy a long time before he was comfortable with the controls, and grabbing enemy agro sometimes seemed random.
In general enemies poorly telegraph their attacks, and many of the bosses initially seem impossible. We were lucky enough to start on a level that had an easily exploited boss, but further down the line it was a frustrating mess of abusing save-states and trying to establish a pattern. Even after we had it all down, I can’t really say the boss fights were fun. They all have way too much HP, making each affair a war of attrition rather than an amusing challenge of dexterity. I know there are people out there that can acquire a taste for what 8 Eyes provides, but I know that the trial and error gamer is a smaller niche, and even within that niche I think this game may be above the common tolerance level.
Not every level is just a linear journey; two of the seven initial stages are also mazes. It’s not a Metroidvania style maze by any means though; it’s more like the final castle of Super Mario Bros, or the lost woods in the original Legend of Zelda, where you have to guess which is the right path and if you guess wrong you just repeat the same area. Unlike the original Zelda though, you’re not given any clues on which way is right, so you kind of have to break out a pen and paper and map out the choices you have and which ones you’ve taken until you find the end. This wouldn’t be the worst thing ever, I like breaking out the pen and paper occasionally myself, but doing this while dealing with all the enemy issues I’ve already mentioned gives you a sort of time limit indicated by your health bar. Sometimes in screen transitions monsters will 100% hit you – no level of reaction skill can fix it. Until you realize that some paths are unnecessary to take you’re probably going to die a lot to this problem. Thankfully like Castlevania, some walls contain items that cure your health, but in these maze levels unless you can discern the path quickly this only delays the inevitable.
Also found in walls are clues to the game’s final unique feature. After you’ve collected all 8 gemstone “eyes” (the 8th being at the end of a boss rush at the House of Ruth that unlocks after you beat the other levels), you have to put the gemstones onto a wall in the correct order to complete the game. In each level you can find a scroll that gives you a clue on what the order is. On the stage select screen you can access your clues at any time…. But you can’t access them during the actual puzzle. So take a screenshot or write it down somewhere – or just look up someone’s FAQ on the internet. Solving the puzzle is actually fun, it’s just a shame that they didn’t think of that small quality of life feature in the process. Once you solve the puzzle you’re given a sort of “Congratulations” non-ending and a code to start the game all over again on an even harder difficulty.
It’s hard for me to not appreciate what 8 Eyes was at least trying to do, but in my opinion there’s probably a good reason I hadn’t heard of it. It doesn’t hold up nearly as well as its more popular competitors; Castlevania and Mega Man included. While it has heart, the game design is a complete mess, and I can really only recommend it to people interested in studying game design or just trying to experience game history on their PC. I now finally know where “House of Ruth” comes from in Castle in the Darkness, and I did enjoy some of the nostalgia of playing an actual NES game in 2019. Anyone who doesn’t have a childhood of sadist game designers abusing them though might not appreciate this game as much as I did.
Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:
All Time: Positive
(90% of 11 Reviews)