If I were to say only one thing B.I.O.T.A. does exceptionally well, it would be variety. It has eight characters to swap between (four available from the beginning), multiple vehicles to pilot, 54 palette swaps, challenging setpieces and areas to explore. B.I.O.T.A. is teeming with ideas. This does mean some features of this Metroidvania feel underdeveloped. However, with a solid movement system, crunchy Gameboy aesthetics and music, and satisfying progression, there’s a lot to love.
“The action feels punchy, filled to the brim with screen shake and explosions, and satisfying precision to its bouncy and vibrant platforming. “
In the far future, Earth and its colonies reside under the V-corp’s thumb. Playing as a team of eight mercenaries, you are hired to investigate a mining colony overrun by a mysterious alien species. Stabilize the base, collect specimens, and find the truth behind V-corp’s lies. It’s very standard, but with a pleasantly gritty presentation, solid character portraits, and a narrated intro, it’s delightfully campy.
But you are not playing B.I.O.T.A. for the story. The action feels punchy, filled to the brim with screen shake, explosions, and satisfying precision to its bouncy and vibrant platforming. And you are going to need that precision. B.I.O.T.A. differs from your average Metroidvania with a strong focus on challenging platforming sections with save points few and far between.
You will a die a fair amount in your 5 to 10-hour playthrough(s), but it rarely ever reaches brutal levels of difficulty. So for those wary of souls likes, don’t expect that here. When I did find myself dying in an area, switching out the mercenary I was playing as made a huge difference. Some are better for close range, while others carry mid to long-range weapons working nicely against heavy-hitting melee enemies or ranged enemies. Different mercenaries have different special weapons with limited uses and even alternate ones available to purchase in black market shops around the world. Special weapons range from grenades to remote-controlled drones, to sniper bullets that can hit anything trapped in your crosshair.
“The progression system, at least in its current form, prevents the potential of sequence breaking and was never quite as satisfying as a Metroid-like upgrade such as a double jump or super bomb.”
B.I.O.T.A. also sets itself apart with its unique progression system and map. Instead of unlocking traditional powerups directly through exploration and combat, you must find upgrades for your wallet to increase the amount of currency you can hold. You’ll then find black market shops scattered across the world to buy increased health, damage output, and special ammo upgrades. Shops also sell key items necessary for progression.
It is a mechanical choice I still feel mixed about, as, on the one hand, combined with a map system that lays out important rooms when found, I never found myself stuck in the game. But this method, at least in its current form, prevents the potential of sequence breaking and was never quite as satisfying as a Metroid-like upgrade such as a double jump or super bomb. These can not only unlock the critical path but tons of extra areas and even more upgrades. Not to mention that it turns progression itself into a puzzle, which is absent as a concept from B.I.O.T.A..
“There are still plenty of secret walls and challenge areas to collect specimens that can unlock new 4-colour palettes.”
I was worried that travelling back to specific shops would be a slog, but B.I.O.T.A. also has very streamlined traversal. The entire map is visible from the beginning of the game and you fill it in as you explore. A fast travel elevator is useable as soon as you find one available at the beginning of each area; no need to wait halfway through the game to unlock that ability.
Additionally, you also have a teleporter that you can use to return to the start of the game at any time. Here you can heal up, change characters or replenish your special ammo. This can be a real lifesaver if you are low on health and want to save your progress or just jump quickly across the map cutting out some backtracking. Since the game doesn’t have as many power-up-related secrets that make backtracking worthwhile, this is for the best, and it’s a great quality of life feature.
This is not to say that the areas are empty or devoid of items. There are still plenty of secret walls and challenge areas to collect specimens that can unlock new 4-colour palettes. These are great for replaying the game and can make it feel new again even with such a small change.
“Bosses in the game act more like set pieces or bits of gameplay variation which I found quite refreshing in our time of brutally difficult bosses.”
B.I.O.T.A. is also constantly changing things up with new vehicles and exotic gameplay sections. These can involve piloting submarines, mechs, cannons, spaceships, avoiding enemies and debris while falling into chasms, and much more. These are great for breaking up the game and giving the movement a completely different feel.
Unfortunately, most carry on too long and feel underdeveloped given their length. Though, I still had a fun time with these sections which helped to change up the standard platforming action. Likewise, bosses in the game act more like set pieces or bits of gameplay variation, versus a test of the skills. This is not a bad thing, and I found it quite refreshing in our time of brutally difficult bosses.
“B.I.O.T.A. makes labyrinthian exploring accessible to newcomers while not betraying the genre’s roots.”
This tight Metroidvania experience is all wrapped together with an excellent score of synth-wave chiptunes and areas that manage to look unique despite the limited palette and simplistic art style. Even better, not only do they feel unique but also cohesive. Like Dead Space‘s Ishimura, each part of the mining facility feels purposeful, with each area being affected differently by the alien outbreak. Some areas are completely underwater, irradiated, or even filled with infected miners.
B.I.O.T.A. overwhelms the player with a variety of well-paced experiences. But don’t expect the highs of the genre’s greats. Still, with many great quality of life features, B.I.O.T.A. makes labyrinthian exploring accessible to newcomers while not betraying the genre’s roots. An interesting focus on platforming and several vehicles to spice up the runtime makes it an instant recommendation to Metroidvania fans and newbies alike.
You can pick up B.I.O.T.A over on Steam for £7.49.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on P.C, code was provided by the Publisher.