One of the most overpopulated genres in the indie gaming scene is the platformer genre, but a rarer and more celebrated variety is the 3D platformer. This means every release of a new 3D platformer just inherently feels a bit more unique, and Boti: Byteland Overclocked is no exception, but being a 3D platformer might be the most special thing about it.
On the surface, it looks pretty basic, and I’m not going to lie and say it promises anything past the fundamentals of what makes a good 3D platformer. However, it does nail those essentials and has a few new ideas to bring to the table, which is all you really ask of a platformer in my book. The potential is through the roof with the objectively ‘hella-cool’ idea of exploring the internals of a computer, but we are handing out marks for execution here.
So join us, as we break down whether this is just another safe, by-the-books platformer, or something with a little more byte. This is Indie Game Culture’s Boti’s Byteland: Overclocked Review.
The visuals of Boti: Byteland are fine, inoffensive, and undeniably alright. From the sounds of it, you would think my butt would be full of splinters from sitting on the fence like that, but in my defense, the game gives me no reason to hop off this pokey metaphorical fence.
They don’t go for anything special. It looks like half the games in Unreal Engine. You know, those that throw together models and textures under some light cel shading and turn the bloom on way too high. You can’t customize the graphics beyond presets, which is upsetting.
I really wish I could turn off the bloom, but that’s mainly because I don’t play every video game with the brightness on 100 and Vaseline smeared on my monitor. Otherwise, it’s alright; I would’ve liked a bit more commitment to a bold art style, as this looks identical to Astro’s Playroom on PS5, which is a tech demo.
Overall, it is an entirely harmless art style that doesn’t take any risks and never looks nasty or rough, but with the caveat of being rather uninteresting. Imagine what this game would be like if they went all in on a computer interior aesthetic rather than giving us generic grass areas and buildings that don’t make me feel much of anything. My brain was overheating by opening 15 different tabs of ideas for levels or characters, but it seems like the game didn’t have the RAM to keep up.
Speaking of things feeling safe and harmless at the cost of not allowing things to get interesting, the gameplay loop of Boti is pretty simple, understandable, and almost always fun while never getting all that engaging. You break objects, do simple platforming, fight enemies, and do simplistic puzzles around big open levels to collect data, then use that to unlock the rest of the level.
This loop is fun and already works in games like Banjo-Kazooie or A Hat in Time, usually because they distribute various collectibles through their levels that unlock multiple things. Boti does this, but it’s mostly for extra, unimpactful things like extra leftover data for fun purchases in the hub, cosmetics for your character or house, less-than-necessary upgrades, and some lore.
Now, I am ADHD, so collectibles aplenty and constant validation is a big plus, but considering this game’s movement is lame, it takes away from the fun, collect-a-thon vibe.
You can only do a few moves by default: jumping, dashing, gliding, and attacking. I would stick my neck out and say that dashing is the only one that even feels remotely satisfying, but it’s limited by long end-lag and does not maintain any momentum into your normal movement. Later, you get access to magnetism, which is just as fun as messing with real magnets, especially using them as a grappling hook (just like real life), but limited by only being used for exploring dedicated areas.
Exploring isn’t super incentivized since you only get mildly fun cosmetics or more data, and moving around is perfectly functional and fine but not incredibly entertaining. It’s all good, acceptable, and inoffensive, and if you’re seeing a pattern here, I am, too! The only other exceptional gameplay feature is the scan feature, which turns everything into flat colors and makes enemies and objects more straightforward to pick out.
This is a lovely accessibility feature that also makes traversing the world and figuring things out easier. It’s one of the sole experimental, cool features in this game that isn’t just playing it safe and leaving it at that. As someone with terrible vision, I do genuinely appreciate something like this. Overall, this gameplay is refined, but it feels like someone playing all the notes of a song correctly but usually playing them with no confidence and way too quietly. It could just be so much more, with a bit of passion.
The only other thing of note is multiplayer, which is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s hard to get local multiplayer to work due to Steam Input making everything keyboard inputs by default (either that or I’m just dumb, which is a definite possibility!) When that or online multiplayer does work, it’s okay; it’s mostly running around the levels with your partner and having magnetic shenanigans with them, which makes collecting things faster. It’s not much, but it’s something to spice up the experience.
A Slow Progress Bar
Progression in Boti’s Byteland is handled in a decently unique way. It’s a very linear game, and while the levels increase in difficulty a bit each time, it heavily relies on fun level-based gimmicks for each stage rather than letting each level be pure platforming. I wanted it to be a little more difficult (especially since you can die to a boss, and that won’t reset their health, so you can easily die to them and still win, what the hell, man), but for what it’s worth, I had a lot of fun in each level.
There are a few boss fights, but while the rest of the game has some decent button-mashy combat, these boss fights are entirely gimmick. You have the Trojan Horse (which is exactly as corny as you’d think), and you must take out its legs with magnet-pulled cannons. I appreciate the variations, but overall, this game focuses more on gimmicks than testing a player on advanced techniques (since there aren’t any), and I want a bit more.
Boti’s soundtrack is entirely what you’d expect, almost entirely synthesized tunes that match the levels. Nothing stands out, but it was all really good nonetheless. Each level gets dedicated music, and despite none of it standing out, it was all good; I’d happily listen to it on its own. It’s easiest to compare this soundscape to that of Portal 2, which sounds like high praise, but if you can honestly tell me you remember more than three songs from the entire Portal series, you’re crazy.
Regarding general sound design, the companions (creatively named One and Zero) add flavor to the game. Still, more often than not, they get on my nerves and feel the need to make a snarky comment on every death; they got on my nerves more often than they added good jokes or fun charm, especially with repeat voice lines for seemingly no reason. Everything else is fine, though; nothing stood out too much, which is a theme of this whole game.
Scripting and Storytelling
The plot of Boti: Byteland is something of a typical cartoon movie plot, like how Banjo-Kazooie or Spyro would do it. The story has a clear objective, mainly consisting of finding a new quirky character to have them tell you a new location to go, throwing in a few twists and turns with evil characters, and, bam, you have a good, fun plot.
I do like the writing of the game, and a simplistic plot ain’t bad; it’s just a weirdly nostalgic feeling because I haven’t seen a game written with such a character-forward focus (though that’s probably just due to me not actively seeking games like that out, but I digress). When the pitch for this game was a PS1/N64 Rareware and Insomniac throwback, they meant it, and honestly, I’m here for it!
Restarting… (Update Progress: 36%)
Despite everything I’ve said, Boti’s Byteland seems like an enjoyable game to speedrun. It’s primarily due to the fact you can reset your dash by doing a short hop, meaning you can move quickly if you’re precise and nail the rhythm (which I never was for more than three times in a row, but that’s a certified skill issue); every level gimmick being fun and unintrusive certainly helps, and that’s not the only reason you’d want to replay the game, either.
There are 52 achievements, and I absolutely did not get all of them cause while many of them can be earned by just playing the game normally, many are super hard. Namely, the slide levels. These things will take forever to perfect for all the trophies, but it’s enjoyable to try.
This, on top of all the collectibles you could miss in the rather expansive and intricate levels, the massive variety of unlockable things in the game’s hub, and the various cosmetics and items to strive for, lead to this being quite a bit of replayable fun.
If you’re looking for a retro throwback to your favorite collect-a-thons, Boti’s Byteland will undoubtedly do the trick, but there are quite a few other games you might want to try out if you haven’t already.
- A Hat In Time is one of my favorite 3D platformers ever, and I might be biased, but I think at times it improves on what Banjo and Spyro were doing like 20+ years ago. It’s fun, has a ton of incredible collectibles, and is one of my favorite ensembles of characters in a video game.
- Yooka-Laylee is a pretty direct throwback to Banjo-Kazooie, being developed by many former Rare members and trying to keep all the same design principles and fun characters intact. I recommend trying it out if you’re nostalgic for that series; it’s a great time.
- It Takes Two is your best bet for fun, multiplayer, platformer-ish action. It leans heavily into its co-op aspect (you can technically play it single-player, but it isn’t super exciting that way), and it’s an easy recommendation if you’re looking for something to go through with a friend.
Overall, I feel like Boti’s Byteland shows a ton of promise, especially because this is Purple Ray Studio’s first big game. It’s hard to get things right on the first try, and for what it’s worth, this game gets just about every major thing correct, but it’s like writing an essay in perfect MLA formatting that gets everything right but shows no passion or desire to go above and beyond meeting those standards.
It’s a stable, correctly made, and well-designed game, but it’s not overflowing with personality, and every new idea it brings to the table may be half-executed at best. I don’t see a generic factory in grassy plains when I creatively interpret a CPU as a video game level, and I think the devs wanted to do more but just didn’t.
It just feels like a pretty good burger from a restaurant; sure, it’s objectively well made, but it’ll never feel as good as one made by someone who cared and put in a ton of effort to make you a delicious meal.
This is a fun game, and I’d recommend it if all you want is a fun platformer that won’t challenge you too much while reminding you of the olden days, but I can’t help my yearning for something more. I want to explore the Windows XP background, hop around files on the desktop, and have fun with this concept. Maybe I’m just spoiled from games like Inscryption or Deltarune doing way more exciting things with the idea of exploring a computer, but this doesn’t do it for me.
Pros and Cons
- Boti’s Byteland is quite dense, having a ton of content to sift through
- The computer theming is at least charming and a cool concept on the surface
- It’s just a well-made, fun 3D platforming collect-a-thon
- The companion characters, Zero and One, get incredibly annoying, and there is no way to turn them off without turning off all the voices.
- The game lacks ambition, often half-executing its great ideas or not satisfying enough when trying something new.
- There were a few bugs, though never game-breaking; they were mildly intrusive and, at worst, made me exit to the title screen to progress.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is Boti’s Byteland: Overclocked?
Answer: Boti’s Byteland is a 3D platformer collect-a-thon intended to harken back to the prime of RareWare and Insomniac, with games like Banjo Kazooie and Spyro the Dragon as the main inspirations.
Question: Is Boti’s Byteland Overclocked a multiplayer game?
Answer: Yes, you can play through the entire game in local or online co-op, though the online co-op requires both players to own the game.
Question: How long is Boti’s Byteland?
Answer: Since the game’s levels are often big and expansive but don’t require exploring all of them to progress, the answer will depend heavily on the player, but I’d say it’ll run somewhere between 5-10 hours, depending on your playstyle.
I played through the entirety of Boti’s Byteland for 8 hours total and got a review copy of the game a few days early on a beta branch (which might be the cause for some of the bugs I experienced); I tried playing it on Steam Deck, and it confirmed a suspicion I had that this game won’t run very well on weaker computers, as it struggled to maintain 30 FPS on the lowest settings.