Best Buds vs Bad Guys, otherwise known as Best Buds in your Steam library, is a retro-inspired run & gun game. The problem with being retro inspired is being able to differentiate what makes those games fun and what made them a pain. I welcome games deciding to be challenging, but having design decisions that serve only to annoy people or make the game seem unfair doesn’t do much for my enjoyment. It’s a heavily flawed game with the inclusion of numerous stability issues which is a shame since it also has good ideas in it.
Developer: Super Icon Ltd
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Genre: 2D Run ‘n’ Gun
Release Date: 7th of December, 2016
The gameplay involves running, gunning and a good amount of platforming. You also have to find three pieces of the EXIT before engaging the boss to collect the T and end the level. Sometimes the locations of the three pieces are a bit obfuscated and can be non-linear to its detriment. I’ve even run into a visual clue that blended with the background for me with the cracked stairs near the beginning of the level that you’re supposed to remember to backtrack to since you need to drop dynamite on it in order to progress.
The platforming is extremely basic. You can find items that will grant a double jump or a super jump and those only last for the stage instead of being permanent upgrades. The movement items will turn off if you enter the item menu, if you enter a new area, or for no reason on rare occasions. Those types of deaths are really unwelcome. It’s also quite the feeling to become used to a double jump only to not have it in other stages or having to reacquire if restarting a level.
Instead, you’ll be regularly depending on your jump and running jump. In terms of obstacles, there are spikes, invisible blocks, pits, ladders, moving platforms, a couple blind jumps and other hazards. Don’t expect an interesting movement kit. The hitboxes for the traps and the collision with the environment are not done well at all. They interfere with movement and cause deaths or head bumps due to platforms and traps having hitboxes in the wrong shape. They tend not to match the objects in question which makes the movement feel very clunky or unresponsive at times. I’ve died by touching the machine part of a laser trap instead of the beam. Most of the traps I came across behaved poorly until the seventh stage where some of them just outright killed me by being near them. They’d blend in with the background due to poor color choices and turn on and off even quicker than usual.
The best parts of this game are the different guns and the boss fights. The starting weapon isn’t that great and I’m glad whenever I come across a new weapon or an old favorite. You store each one you find in a level and can equip it at will when you bring up the item menu. That’s also the same menu where you can use your support items such as health potions, grenades, or a shield. I really like this kind of feature that lets you hoard whatever you find instead of having a hard restriction. The boss fights are pretty fun, especially when you bring in special weapons to the fight. They provide fights that let you use your whole inventory with abandon.
One of the worst levels in the game in terms of level design has to be Ancient Castle. It features dozens of different instant death spike traps with rectangular hitboxes that don’t match what’s being animated. Some of the spikes don’t even have any indicators of their presence which I discovered by dying. They just pop up from the ground and you have to wait and then memorize their location as you slowly make your way around them. That kind of design made the whole level a drag. Death resulted even from approaching the spikes from the side. Even the ladder had spikes which made it very slow to climb. It was a level that represented a cocktail of boredom and frustration. It required many retries. The Toybox level turns into a masochistic instant death trap fest with enemies shooting you at the same time.
Another problem I noticed were the obnoxious enemy spawns. They frequently come into existence off screen and then start their attack. When they have guns, prepare for shots coming from the sides. The flying ones that prefer charging at you were also really annoying to deal with and frequently resulted in taking damage. It just felt cheap. I prefer the design philosophy of difficult, but fair. Regrettably the developer only applied it to the boss fights in this game.
Another issue I had was the sound design, for example explosions or certain gun effects completely masking enemy projectiles. It’s hard to dodge what you cannot see, making the task of staying alive very difficult. The sound design issue comes in a couple different flavors. The first one is the lack of sound in the environment. Traps will spring up or fall down instantly without a whisper. The environmental clues of their presence can be a nuisance, especially if corpses have been piling up. They have no sound cues or impact noises. The other annoying aspect of the sound design is how some enemies are very loud and have an annoying sound that doesn’t stop until you kill them. Just think of really grating retro sound on a relatively tough to kill enemy. Those two issues cause the experience to feel empty or aggravating.
There are still more issues to cover. The respawning platforms that crumble under your feet are frequently buggy and cause delays. They only come back to life based on proximity versus a timer which can cause problems as you try to jump around to make them respawn. The spring platforms for some reason allow you to pass through them when jumping on them sometimes which leads to fatal errors. You’re supposed to bounce off of them. They can also move for some reason when you’re bouncing on top of them. A continue option would have been great for this game. There isn’t one present, so losing all your lives means starting over completely. Most of the lives I’ve lost have been to those instant death traps. I’ve seen the beginning of levels many times. The gunfire can also push your character back, resulting in a large number of unintended deaths when fighting in dangerous areas filled with instant death traps.
The stability issues are serious with this game. Every time I complete a level, the game freezes and requires a restart. Sometimes it’ll just crash to desktop. The stability issues alone are enough to make me caution people interested in making a purchase. I’d make very smart use of your Steam Refund window with this title since the performance problems could very well make it not worth your time. It’s extremely annoying to have to relaunch the game so many times during a play session. I’m just glad it was able to save my progress when it froze after completing a stage. I also found myself becoming frozen on a door transition for up to a minute. The game gives off the impression that it’s being held together with hope and prayer.
Unfortunately, the fun aspects of this game – boss fights and gun variety – are not enough to overcome the number of problems I had with the game. It’ll need more stability updates and then some tuning and tweaking to make the game a more consistent and fun experience. As it is now, the game might not be in a condition that’s good enough for purchase. I see the potential, but it’s buried underneath everything else. I couldn’t even see the entire game due to the severity of all the issues combined. I had to seriously push myself to complete eight out of eleven stages and seeing most of the ninth.