Retro game development (as in making new games for outdated consoles) isn’t put in the spotlight all that often. That’s why I was surprised to see Escape 2042 on Kickstarter. It’s an old-school, 8-bit platformer in development for Gameboy, Megadrive, Dreamcast, and Windows.
The pitch video is a bit confusing. It’s made up of gameplay footage hidden underneath a ridiculous amount of on-screen text. However, the actual campaign presents a pretty straight-forward looking game. The gist of it is that you must attempt to escape prison by avoiding guards and security cameras while hacking doors and disabling laser protection fields. The game takes place in 3 different environments: prison, forest, and desert.
A slightly odd fact is that Escape 2042 is supplemented by 2 mini-games – a reversed shoot ’em up and an abseiling game. It’s a bit puzzling to see those labeled as mini-games since both seem to be part of core gameplay. Due to size limitations the Gameboy version will not include those features. That version will also only include levels from in the prison section of the game.
The Price of Nostalgia
With target platforms such as Megadrive and Dreamcast on the table, Escape 2042’s nostalgia factor is undeniable. The good news is that the game is developed by OrionSoft – a French retro game maker who already has experience in releasing titles for Dreamcast, PlayStation 1, and Jaguar CD. Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that a potentially successful Kickstarter would require producing and shipping hundreds of cartridges. To me that already sounds like a logistics nightmare.
In case you’re interested, here’s what goes into creating an old-school cartridge according to the creator of Super Russian Roulette (another recent Kickstarter developed for an older console – the NES). Still, the homebrew development community is very much alive and kicking, judging by how active some forums are on a daily basis.
So, is Escape 2042 a game I’d buy on Steam? Probably not. However, I would be lying if I said its aesthetics and mechanics didn’t make me reminisce about old (and extremely harsh) platformers. Back when games sported charmingly wonky jumping mechanics and oddly addicting cycles of constant death. Throw in the ability to experience something like this on a console of the past, and I can see quite a lot of people getting behind the Kickstarter.
Escape 2042’s campaign is asking for €25,000. All the campaign footage has been captured from a working Megadrive build. So, development seems to be well underway. The project has a tentative release date for May 2017.