Publisher: Petersen Games
Game Length: 60-90 minutes
Cooperative dungeon crawling is one of my favorite digital past-times, and the same is true for tabletop gaming. In Petersen Games’ 8 Bit Attack, the pixelated dungeon has been distilled into a series of boss battles against aliens and demons, culminating in a gigantic showdown with Cthulhu himself.
The character and monster variety create lots of different situations, though the dice-chucking gameplay wears out its welcome long before it’s over.
Select Your Fighter
Before delving into the pixelated battles, players choose their character from an impressively diverse roster of cyborgs, elves, fish-ladies, suit-wearing ghostbusters, and drunken demonologists. A total of 20 heroes are available, each with their own character sheet, abilities, and future upgrades.
This is not a game where you can randomly deal out characters and waltz into a battle, however. The champions and minions you face will punish any team that hasn’t been carefully planned and balanced, including defensive tanks and supportive healers and buffers.
There are four waves of battles before taking on final boss Cthulhu, whose massive armor, damage, and stunning capabilities require the team to level up substantially before even having a chance at facing old squidface.
Players have to collectively decide what Assault level they want to face on each wave, from 1 to 7. A level 1 Assault will result in only three enemies, a champion and two minions, but there’s a big difference between splitting those three enemies up between three or four players than with two. Defeating level 1 only results in a single precious medal for the entire team, which can be used to upgrade heroes with life-saving armor, or gain new abilities.
Heroes are pressured to tackle the hardest possible assault level they can muster to maximize their medal gains, leading to long, drawn-out battles against half a dozen enemies, each of which can activate buffs and debuffs. I would have preferred level waves that gradually progress in difficulty (you know, like an 8-bit video game), and that each wave properly scaled for the number of players.
The gameplay boils down to rolling a pair of dice to attack with either Slow or Fast hits, and using your limited energy to activate character-specific abilities. Even the lowliest minion often has a greater damage output than most un-leveled heroes – and enemies don’t have to roll dice. Due to the awful armor system, it’s not uncommon for a player to roll dice and not be able to do much of anything on their turn once they run out of energy, while enemies continue to mete out the pain.
Depending on the number of players and Assault levels, it can easily take two hours just to get to Cthulhu. Most champions have around 30 hit points with minions hovering around 10 hp each. By comparison, Cthulhu has 25 hit points PER PERSON, meaning 100 HP in a four player game! Even if you have a solid strategy that’s gotten your team this far, you’re still left at the whims of the dice, while Cthulhu gleefully stuns a player every single turn for the ridiculous amount of time you have to battle him. Elder god indeed.
Stellar components could have elevated the frustrating experience, but 8 Bit Attack suffers from the opposite problem. The cheap components remain a hassle throughout, from constantly shuffling heart damage tokens around to the annoying buff and debuff cards and timer tokens, turning the battlefield into a chaotic mess within the first few minutes.
The recommended age range for 8 Bit Attack is 10+. It’s easy to teach, with tactics and synergy between heroes unfolding through experience.
I can appreciate a challenging co-op game, and I love the rule-of-cool approach to throwing in demons, aliens, and cosmic horror. But 8 Bit Attack quickly became a slog in every game I played. Battles took way too long for too little strategy, and the difficulty ramps up to a ridiculous degree. Old video games were often frustrating, and I didn’t need to experience that all over again in 8 Bit Attack.
Find 8 Bit Attack at Petersen Games Website.