Narita Boy is a side-scrolling, 80s VCR-soaked pixel adventure. You play as the titular Narita Boy, a chosen hero of sorts who's tasked with saving a digital dimension from its all-powerful creator. There's a lot more story here than you might think — most of it told through lengthy dialogue boxes — but the gist of it is that you're on a rather epic quest, and you'll be kicking a lot of arse.
Narita Boy is mostly comprised of combat, platforming, and some light puzzle solving. It's not really a Metroidvania — there's no branching map — but there is quite a bit of backtracking as you find keys that unlock previously inaccessible locations. It's a linear journey, and the game keeps track of your current objective, but with no markers and no map, you can quite easily lose your bearings. It's not necessarily a problem — the way forward is usually a lot more obvious than it appears — but it does mean that you have to pay constant attention to your surroundings.
Fortunately, the world of Narita Boy is wonderful. The 80s VCR aesthetic certainly isn't original, but the game pulls it off extremely well. Again, this is a digital realm; its denizens are mostly mechanical beings with screens for faces, and their land is filled with discarded data given physical form. It's a world packed with detail and brilliantly bizarre sights. It's consistently, impressively creative — and it's another prime example of what can be achieved with relatively simple pixel art.
That creativity also bleeds into the combat. Encounters with enemy programs punctuate the entire release, and the good news is that Narita Boy feels great to control during these action-based battles. You steadily unlock a range of combat abilities, from a standard evasive dash to specialised super moves, and everything serves a purpose. As you'd expect, the complexity of these encounters gradually increases as more dangerous enemy types are introduced, but the difficulty curve is masterful. What's more, boss battles are usually a joy.
It's a shame, though, that the platforming isn't quite as enjoyable as the sword-swinging action. The nature of Narita Boy's slip and slide movement lends itself well to combat, but when it comes to precision platforming, he's a bit unwieldy. Thankfully, there are only a handful of truly challenging navigation sequences throughout the game, and even then, Narita Boy is reasonably forgiving. Losing all of your life simply places you at the start of the screen, or at the last checkpoint (which are plentiful).
If it isn't already clear, Narita Boy is a great indie adventure. It's got satisfyingly slick gameplay, and the visuals are a delight. But perhaps the true star of the show is the stellar electronic soundtrack. Whether it's twinkling ambient tunes or booming synth chords, the music is superb.