Back in the '90s, a game wasn’t worth its salt unless it featured a cute protagonist, a shed-load of items to collect, and plenty of secret levels to explore.
The passage of time may have altered the expectations and desires of the average gamer, but there’s no denying that the humble 2D platform epic still has the power to entertain.
For proof of this, look no further than Terra Noctis. This lush hand-drawn adventure looks and sounds like the 16-bit platformer you dreamed of back in the days of the Mega Drive and SNES, offering superb visuals and tight, captivating gameplay.
Welcome to my nightmare
The standard-issue adorable hero in Terra Noctis is called Allen, and it’s his job to deliver shiver-inducing nightmares to the world of the living.
The problem is, Allen is anything but spooky - in fact, he’s more likely to generate warm, fuzzy feelings than palpitations.
Annoyed by the fact that he couldn’t scare a child if he tried, Allen sets out to find the world’s most sinister nightmare in the hope that he can obtain its underpant-soiling power and become a legendary spook.
Allen is your typical platform hero. He can double-jump to reach tall platforms and dispatches enemies by jumping on their heads, Super Mario-style. In another nod to the Mario series (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, to be specific), Allen can also hurl projectiles at enemies.
Along the way, you can pick up fairies to increase your points total. Blue ones are bountiful and are tallied up at the end of the level, while red ones are harder to find and allow you to access special stages.
Bat’s the way I like it
Terra Noctis boasts some impressively complex level design, but assistance is on hand thanks to a bat-like friend who not only alerts you to potential dangers and hidden secrets but also provides transport across some of Terra Noctis’s more hostile environments.
The standard of presentation in this game is truly breathtaking. The 2D graphics are gorgeous, boasting incredible detail and smooth animation. The atmospheric music is equally praise-worthy, although the repetition of certain tracks does grate a little over prolonged play.
To cap it all off, the titanic boss battles are especially note-worthy, showcasing a selection of massive sprites and refreshingly inventive attack patterns.
Plumbing the depths
While Terra Noctis clearly owes a massive debt to Nintendo’s famous Italian plumber, it never feels like a slavish replication. The unique art style makes the game stand out from its peers, and the large number of levels ensures a consistent challenge.
Even when you’ve finished them all, there’s a powerful urge to return to previous stages and see if you can get a 100 per cent rating by collecting all the objects and exploring every nook and cranny.
Terra Noctis's only real issue is one of control: while the touchscreen buttons are large enough to hit with confidence, games of this type feel a little awkward without proper physical buttons.
It’s not a game-breaking problem by any means, but some of the trickier portions of the game are made harder than they should be by the interface.
If we were back in 1993, then Allen would be the perfect mascot for the iPhone, and Terra Noctis would give Sonic and Mario a run for their money. In 2011, the impact of the game is slightly muted due to the genre’s relatively low popularity, but that doesn’t prevent it from providing a rewarding and enjoyable quest for old skool players.