If there's one thing I miss, it's the '80s. I'm being only a little sarcastic when I say that, but it wasn't the worst decade. I'm fond of the '80s not because I was actually born in the decade ('90s baby here), or because the music was particularly great (though Bon Jovi is awesome), or even because of Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For me, the '80s is the decade of the absolute best action flicks, from Die Hard to The Terminator to maybe my favorite of the bunch, Rambo: First Blood. It was also the decade of the rebirth of the video game industry. When the NES launched, it single-handedly made home consoles a popular (and profitable) thing again. I'm thinking it was for those two reasons that, before I even played the game, I was attracted to 8DAYS. It's a beautiful combination of the things I loved about the 1980's: mindless action and 8-bit glory. Maybe that's why when I first fired up 8DAYS from Santa Clara games, I was instantly sucked in for an exciting, but sometimes frustrating ride.
Following in the same vein as the indie hit Hotline Miami with a little sprinkle of Stallone, 8DAYS is a retro, top-down, twin-stick shooter blast from the past. Though not up to the quality of HM, this game still has a lot to offer. Everything about the game screams the 1980s, from the graphical style to the bare bones story. It's all about the action with 8DAYS and it has that in spades.
8DAYS is available on the Playstation Store for $9.99.
Gameplay and Story
Let's quickly get one thing out of the way about 8DAYS: this game is haaaaaard. It's a difficulty that, like its setting and story, hearkens back to the games of Schwarzenegger's heyday. You will die, and you will die a lot. You even almost die when the game starts. Your enemies are fierce (though not all that smart), your health packs are few, and being able to only take three hits doesn't make those two facts any easier to swallow. It's an experience that walks the line between fun and downright frustrating, but part of the charm of 8DAYS is that, despite its headache inducing difficulty, it kept me coming back for more. Call me a masochist, I guess.
You play as Lola "Wasp" Cruz or Mike "Ghost" Doe, two mercenaries under the employ of G.O.D. Inc., a private military company with a global reach. In either single-player or local co-op, you are tasked with jetting around the globe to ensure the happiness and interests of the fictional elites. Your first mission is to solve the world's rice problems by "persuading" a local dictator in Southeast Asia to end his embargo. Persuasion is achieved by any means necessary – which means guns, guns, and more guns. Sure, it's not the greatest narrative ever told, but it gets the job done.
Gameplay itself is largely of the run-and-gun variety, although at times it's much easier to take a stealthier approach to take out enemies before they see you. 8DAYS controls fairly well overall. Movement with the left control stick is smooth and moving around the map is done with ease. Aiming with the right stick feels a bit wonky and sensitive at times. For a game where the enemies randomly change direction and can overwhelm you with numbers, a little more accuracy would be nice. The game could do with an option to adjust aiming sensitivity, though for this brand of action gaming the lack of that option isn't exactly game breaking.
Speaking of the enemies in 8DAYS, they're about as smart as a pile of bricks. If you leave their line of sight for the smallest amount of time, they'll completely forget that you even existed. That said, they will still find ways to overwhelm and kill you, and that is when this game is at its best. Firefights can break out with four, five, or six enemies at any moment, and running around the screen dodging bullets while simultaneously taking out everyone else makes for some blood pumping action. Another high point of this game are the boss battles, as each one requires you to have quick reflexes and utilize your environment to minimize the damage you take.
The gameplay wouldn't hold up as well if 8DAYS didn't have a nice selection of weapons to choose from that accommodates different play styles. Players can hold up to two weapons at a time and can switch between each one with the press of a button. There are both ranged and melee weapons. Every weapon can be thrown to either kill (knives) or stun (guns). You will die quite a few times before you figure out the best ways to go through each mission and the best weapons to use, but 8DAYS does a good job of balancing the moments when you should be sneaky and the moments when you can run in, guns a-blazing.
Difficulty aside, perhaps the most irritating part of this game (and the part that almost pushes it past frustrating and not fun) is the brutal, unforgiving checkpoint system. I'm all for a hardcore challenge, but forcing you to start over at the beginning of each area of the map (which are divided by what I can only describe as frame and lightning quick loading screens) is a little much. Far too many times I found myself low on health, about to advance to the next area, only to be hit by a stray bullet from the last on-screen enemy and having to start over and play through an excruciatingly difficult section again. On a game with a more accessible difficulty this wouldn't be a problem, but with a game as challenging as this one a more forgiving checkpoint system is needed.
Sound and Graphics
The colorful, vibrant 8-bit graphics of 8DAYS offer a wonderful contrast to the depressing story material and abundant war crimes players will commit throughout the missions. The colors really pop off the screen in every chapter and setting, and the varied locales reinforce the visual appeal of the game. In an age of gruesome realism found in the more high profile releases, the NES-like color pallet of 8DAYS and its brightly colored, blood-soaked rice fields and Middle Eastern sands hearken back to a simpler time in gaming. That said, the enemies in a given area can start to look a little bland after a while, especially after having to trek through areas multiple times because you keep dying. A little more variety in enemy appearances in each chapter would have been nice, but that's a small gripe with otherwise excellent art design.
The sound design of 8DAYS works equally well when the bullets start flying. Each weapon has a distinct sound so it actually sounds like you're firing a different gun. The screams of enemies, innocent civilians, and the player alike in death aren't a bad touch. The Red Forge-composed soundtrack is composed of catchy techno beats and ethereal electronics. I even found myself bobbing my head along as I blazed through levels, peppering the opposition with gunfire and rockets. It's rare that I would consider listening to a video game soundtrack in my daily life, but with Red Forge's work I just might do that – it's worth listening to even outside of the game.
In a world of Call of Dutys and Battlefields, it could be tempting to overlook a game like 8DAYS that embraces nostalgia. That would be a shame because those who do will be missing out on a charming nod to the decade that birthed Aliens and Predators and the NES. Gamers that are able to make their way through the storm of bullets, borderline frustrating difficulty, and archaic checkpoint system will be rewarded with a nice experience of the days of gaming's 8-bit past.
I highly recommend 8DAYS to any gamer that loves shooters and is looking for a challenge. It's not a perfect game by any means, and its difficulty and overly twitchy aiming mechanics will turn a good portion of gamers off. Those really shouldn't deterrents, however, from giving 8DAYS a try. Given the game's cheap price tag and replayability, you'll definitely get your money's worth. Play with a friend and you'll bring out the best of what it has to offer. 8DAYS is an indie title heavy on charm and nostalgia, and with those two positives in its corner, it's a solid game that, in spite of its flaws, you're going to spend your time with.
+ Provides a nice challenge to seasoned gamers
– Sensitive aiming mechanics
+ Loving tribute to the 8-bit era
– Frustrating checkpoint system
+ Great Soundtrak