In the world of modern video games, everything old is new again. Pixel-art is in, chiptune music is back, and two is once again the optimal number of dimensions.

But while plenty of developers are taking their inspiration from the old school, Larva Labs is cribbing directly from the classics.

As such, Gurk III - the 8-bit RPG is no rose-tinted re-imagining of a game from the NES-era role-playing genre.

It's a blocky beast, for one. Larva Labs harks back here to a time when massive polygons were a product of technical limitation rather than a crowd-pleasing affectation.

In at the deep end

Gurk III's gameplay is also authentically retro. At the outset, you're handed control of a party comprising an archer, a warrior, and a spellcaster. Then, you're let loose with nothing in the way of introduction, instruction, or narrative justification.

Naturally, you'll soon stumble upon some locals with a quest for you to complete. And it's not long before you're leading your band of heroes across an honest-to-goodness 8-bit overworld, ransacking underground lairs and handling troublesome goblin infestations for a collection of grateful NPCs.

Gurk III's turn-based battle system makes for pleasingly tactical encounters in which deciding whether to move, attack, or use an item in each hero's turn can often spell the difference between victory and defeat.

Even weaker enemies can easily get the better of you if you're complacent - a threat that results in considerable satisfaction upon your hard-won victories against beastly monarchs and undead assassins.

Random interruptions

But emulating the RPG conventions of yore is a double-edged +1 short-sword, and Gurk III can foster frustration almost as readily as nostalgia.

The frequency of random encounters, for instance, often borders on the ridiculous, while your characters gain levels at a glacial pace.

Gurk III is hard, too. You can't use healing items outside of combat, which means that you buy every HP boost at the cost of one turn in battle. Even the rejuvenating shrines found in towns and villages cost money to use. And there's hardly an abundance of gold in the game's early dungeons.

For some, this stern challenge will quickly become a source of considerable frustration. For others, Gurk III's difficulty will seem the only appropriate complement to an old school aesthetic that's been crafted with obvious affection.