It’s time for our next dip into the recently completed #GBJAM5. This time around we jump right to the holder of sacred 1st place: Derelict.
Since when has exploring an abandoned long forgotten space hulk ever been a good idea anyway? So it should be no spoiler for me to reveal that Derelict is indeed filled with robotic horrors and deadly spikes.
On booting up Derelict, it’s not hard to see why it took first place. The visuals are a dead ringer for the Gameboy era and the audio is mostly spot on, while still managing to squeeze in a suitably dark and foreboding feeling from the self-imposed limitations.
Gameplay begins like your standard platformer fare: each area is bereft of power, and you need to search for
keys batteries to power it all up to open the doors that allow access to further sections. Being is set in deep space, by law there must be some kind of jetpack-like gimmick in there as with all sci-fi platformers. Luckily Derelict adds its own twist to the vertical exploration formula.
When you first enter an area, you see, since there’s no power as a result there’s also no gravity. This allows you to float freely to your heart’s content as you search for the batteries to power things up. Once you’ve powered up, however, that old geezer gravity comes back with it, making the return trip a new experience.
You also have a gun that can be upgraded through six levels (a feature added post-jam), which sounded fun. However, after collecting my first upgrade when beating the first boss, the gun later reverted back to the base level at some point, and I never saw any upgrades again – so not sure if it’s fully working yet.
In addition to half of each level containing unlimited floating power, if you choose ‘easy’ mode your health regenerates over time when standing still. It’s rather quick, and does make surviving easier, but the upside is that action stays frequent; there’s never a need to slow down and play overly cautiously, or have to crawl back to a checkpoint.
The extended floating (and, depending on your difficulty setting, rapid recharging health) may fool you into thinking it’s going to be too easy. Don’t fall for it – Derelict knows this and knows how to work around these perks to bring the pain. Things quickly ramp up and challenge you, even with immortal-like regenerating health, mostly through mean level design. Oh, and there’s no save points either, meaning each death will send you back to the start of each area.
What really compounds this, though, is a pretty strong knock-back effect when hit, which soon becomes very a contentious challenge. Therein perhaps lies Derelict’s biggest divider – as eventually you’ll be placed in levels that require precision control over your floaty moves, but one bump of an enemy or spikes can more often than not send you bouncing all over the screen, into other obstacles, and ending in an uncontrollable stun-locked spiral of death and frustration. In the end, these areas will demand great patience, bringing back the sort of masochism that I thought I exorcised with Bubble Ghost.
Difficulty aside, Derelict is a darn fine, GBJAM entry, and a polished little game (around a solid hour of play) in its own right. If you’ve got the patience for navigating some more precision-demanding areas, you’ll be in for a treat.
Derelict | download