Written by Mr. Panda
Chances are, you’re looking at the name “Booty Diver” and wondering what it could possibly be about. Well, Booty Diver is a game where you play as a scuba diver, searching underwater for the elusive treasure, also known as booty. I’m sure that’s exactly what you were thinking, right?
Let me preface this review by telling you that the game crashed on me twice on separate occasions on the last few levels. Since there is no save or even a password system, I had to start from scratch, only to have the game crash again on the same level. Needless to say, that marred the rest of my experience. Nevertheless, let me regale you with the tale of the “Booty Diver.”
In each of the 25 underwater levels, you must navigate the titular booty diver to find the hidden treasure chest and carry it back to the surface. Upon reaching the top, the phrase, “Nice Booty Got!” fills the screen, which should really tell you a lot. It’s a retro-styled arcade experience that has clear inspirations from old Atari games. Unlike those early single-screen games, Booty Diver has more depth with vertically scrolling mazelike areas. Though you are completely submerged in every level, the controls are pretty decent; you can move in any direction at all times. You can dash a little to make the trip go faster, but it comes at the expense of your constantly decreasing air supply. Additionally, you can shoot miniature harpoons, which you’ll need against your nautical enemies.
There are a wide variety of foes from ink-shooting octopi to spiked urchins. Your health bar decreases every time you get hit, but matters get worse when you are carrying treasure. It turns out every creature under the sea wants a piece of your booty. When an enemy touches you, your treasure will drop all the way to the briny depths, and you’ll have to fish it back up. Though I got used to this as I got better at shooting enemies, it was still annoying during segments with invincible enemies. Your movement slows down while you hold treasure, making it harder to get around enemies, especially in narrow corridors.
Interestingly enough, the treasure chest is hidden in one of several predetermined spots. Sometimes, the chest is all the way in the bottom of the level; then there are times where the chest is considerably higher up. Sometimes they’re out in the open, and other times, they’re placed near one-hit kill spikes. Speaking of which, the spikes are as dreadful as they sound, especially in levels that are almost entirely pitch-black with only a tiny spotlight guiding the way. It doesn’t help that I occasionally died simply by standing near the spikes. In later levels with switches and currents, a lucky treasure placement completely changes how approachable the level is. Thankfully, regardless where the chest is, you can activate a compass which will always guide you towards it.
After every five levels, you face a boss version of one of the regular water enemies. They’re actually pretty interesting and each have a gimmick that you must exploit. After defeating the boss, you officially move on to the next “world” or set of five levels. If you lose all your lives you get sent back to the beginning of the world, which is certainly more forgiving than forcing you to start from the beginning of your 25-level trek.
There are three difficulty levels, which affect aspects like how many hearts you start out with. Otherwise, the playtime is paltry, though it depends on factors like how often you die and if your game crashes on you. Though you can certainly replay this and collect more coins for high scores, the core gameplay is meager and gets tedious quickly. More variety in additional levels might help, but a stage select would have been appreciated.
While the game obviously went for a modern take on a retro Atari level design, the basic visuals look like something you might find in a Flash game from years ago. While not horrible, compared to many other 2D experiences on the Wii U eShop alone, the graphics look cheap. Despite this, the game somehow still has a lot of slowdown, particularly in the later levels. I’m not sure what exactly makes the game glitch out like that, but it’s surprising. The chiptunes are repetitive but not catchy. They’re mostly filled with the same bleeps and bloops that you might hear whenever a television show tries to replicate what video games sound like.
You have to be in a certain old-school mindset to take the plunge for Booty Diver. There are pockets of fun found within the game’s retro mazelike design and boss encounters. However, it’s a feeling that can easily flow away during the infuriating portions. By far, the biggest issues are the heavy lag and consistent crashing that not only gate you from completing the game, but also erase your progress, making the game near unplayable. Though I wish I could go easier on a game with the name like this, it’s simply an experience that I can’t recommend diving into.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.