GODS Remastered Review
In the back of my mind, I had the vaguest notion of GODS being one of those games that appeared on a live Saturday morning children’s TV programme, where kids would call in and direct an unseen player to move left or right, jump or fire. But it seems I was thinking about Bitmap Brothers’ other platform title — Magic Pockets — which appeared on Motormouth. After spending a few hours slogging my way through GODS Remastered by Robot Riot, I think it’s safe to say it would never have appeared on TV lest the wee bairns got the show kicked off the air for phone obscenities. GODS, as it turns out, was a punishing platformer.
How much pain you can take and your level of nostalgia will ultimately determine whether this reskinned, retooled, and generally polished release is worth the outlay. As Hercules, you're tasked with wresting control of the gods’ citadel from four mythical intruders, your job is to chuck numerous throwable weapons into the faces of creatures, pull a ton of levers, and try not to die. On this last point, good luck. GODS is from an age where enemies throw fireballs at regular intervals, where a mistimed platform jump can see you waste twenty minutes of effort, and where a score actually meant something to some people. Harpies spawn out of nowhere, apes chase you around levels, and trapdoors you’re forced to plummet through inevitably end in lost lives while you work out in which direction you should have pushed instead.
It certainly looks a lot prettier, though. A click of a button reverts the game back to the original 90s graphics, but it’s unlikely you’ll stay in that mode for long. The new skin doesn’t really feel like GODS but it’s definitely easier on the eye. Furthermore, a persistent soundtrack has been layered over the paintwork which not only complements it nicely, but genuinely improves it from the blips and bleeps of the 90s.
The visuals may look nothing like their predecessor, but neither the gameplay nor the mechanics has changed. Your hero still walks as if his legs are being robotically controlled by a distant overseer, lurching staccatically from left to right, overstepping when he needs to be delicate and jumping upwards and to the left or right when it would have been just wonderful if he’d had the option to leap vertically. This is part of the charm of a twenty-seven year old game: working out how to navigate control systems which would be unthinkable if released today.
Dig into the platforming meat of GODS and you’ll find a functional, but not outstanding skeleton buried beneath. Your goal in each of the twelve levels is to obtain the world key which unlocks that level’s door, before leaving. Doing so will often require you to tackle basic puzzles such as collecting a series of objects and taking them to a room to progress, flicking a few switches to open passageways and trapdoors, and killing waves of spawning enemies to obtain either quest items, gems or power-ups. The valuables you collect can be spent with a shopkeeper who appears between levels, while your power-ups include additional thrown weapons (to a maximum of three), alterations to the angle of your attack, magical buffs, extra lives, more health, and other goodies. Certain weapons such as maces can smash through brickwork and reveal routes to secret treasure rooms, while more powerful spears and axes can make short work of enemies.
For its time, GODS did a decent job of making your tools look and feel different in terms of power, but ultimately it won’t be long before you realise you just need to keep spamming the fire button in each direction until a wave of spawned enemies is eliminated (usually off screen) and you can collect your reward before moving on. This is no more apparent than with the boss fights, the first three of which are disappointingly easy to kill and the last of which is tough as nails in comparison, but ultimately taken down in a similar fashion.
That said, there’s still something about GODS which evokes a tingle of excitement whenever you find a hidden switch to press or uncover a new room filled with treasure. Sure, jumping is a bit lame and the AI routines are laughable, but each of the small levels has its own personality and quirks which keep you pressing forward. The difficulty isn’t even that bad once you get going since the game lets you restart from the last checkpoint — normally the start of the level — so blasting through the entire experience should only take you five to six hours if you wanted. After that there is a tougher challenge to contend with if you fancy running the gauntlet all over again, alongside an online leaderboard and a speedrun mode.
Robot Riot has remained faithful to the original game with GODS Remastered which will delight gamers who grew up with the Bitmap Brothers’ big boxes lining their shelves. A few difficulty tweaks have helped offset the slightly clunky gameplay which remains intact. While it’s certainly not the most exciting remaster compared to others, and while some may wonder what all the fuss is about, many — including me — will be hoping that they give Magic Pockets the makeover treatment next.