There are games we grew up with that made our childhood experience that much better. Even then, we had our own preferences and opinions and not everyone who played video games loved the same ones. Although we may not have had a taste for the classics, we could still appreciate them – and still do to this day. Concursion is a game that revives our love of the old school with great care and attention. It’s a truly unique concept that sees various retro games all stirred together in a giant cauldron of appreciation and admiration.
The game begins with a lizard/dragon looking villain capturing your character’s main love interest – a princess dressed in pink. Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? To rescue the princess, you must progress through various levels that heavily reference other games. You can charge through the 2-D platformer just like everyone’s favourite plumber – which is where Concursion takes most of its inspiration from – but as quick as a click of the finger, you can suddenly go from something resembling Mario to a Shinobi-like game, jump-climbing up walls, killing enemies with your sword, all while dodging ninja death stars and arrows (whereas in the Mario-style world you’ll have to jump on enemies to kill them).
You will also come across Pac-Man-based stages, which are all about getting as high a score as possible until you run out of lives. And how do developers Puuba incorporate such a concept and make it work? Simple: there are coloured doors that only open after you eat all of the same coloured dots on the screen, allowing you out of the maze and, more than likely, into a new game-type; one that may, for example, turn your hero into an astronaut who has to keep himself afloat while not being hit by any objects; or it could be a Defender-esque zone in which you will find yourself battling ships in space.
All of these game influences converge and rub off each other to generate a passionate project that expresses its love for all things retro. From Mario to Pac-Man to Shinobi and back, there is enough to keep you invested for hours. Nothing ever seems repetitive or like it’s placed at a certain spot in a level for the sake of it. The transitions from game to game are as smooth as Michael Jackson moonwalking and then flicking a coin into a slot machine. Sometimes, you may find the bottom half of the screen a 2D platformer while the top half has you playing in an astronaut suit.
Sometimes even just some small circles in the middle of the game can contain a different game. The brilliance is that they all seem important and relevant. You will find yourself simply applauding the level design that Puuba have constructed. The boss battles will take more than a few turns to allow advancement to the next stage, and may cause some frustration, but the difficulty balance is near-impeccable.
Concursion’s art-style matches its charm and character with a very colourful, bright cartoon-y look. While each game varies aesthetically from the others, Puuba were careful not to make any seem completely isolated. While the music remains the same throughout a level, when you switch to a different game-type, the music will adapt to suit. You could have one track playing while in a spaceship and as soon as you drop into a Pac-Man maze, it will suddenly become very 8-bit but it won’t be a whole different song. The care and consideration poured into both the art and music of Concursion is highly impressive, and makes these transitions from game to game feel special and as if they serve a purpose.
With such a peculiar idea at work, you have to ask: were does Concursion fall short? While there are 5 different games in 1 here, each one based on an incredibly successful classic, Concursion’s take on them doesn’t come across as better than the originals. Problems such as trying to jump on an enemy to kill them and being killed yourself happen more often than they should and is something no one would experience in a Super Mario game. The Pac-Man controls often feel clunky and unresponsive, and the enemies follow set patterns, making those sections a walk in the park rather than the thrilling chase we all loved in the Namco classic. The flaws in the gameplay can take you out of an enthralling experience, which no unique idea or colourful art-style can make up for.
VERDICT: Most of the time, Concursion is a pleasure to play. It packs in a nice variety of game styles and never once comes across as repetitive. The boss fights are challenging, rewarding and never allow you to reach the boiling point of frustration. The difficulty balance that Puuba have struck makes Concursion a joyous experience for anyone, all while never seeming too simple. It manages to pay homage to several great games and, although it’s very similar to them, it never seems like it’s ripping them off thanks to all the style-switching. It does dip when controls become a problem and enemies kill you when they never should, but to anyone with a love of the classics, Concursion is undeniably worth picking up.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.