The 8-Bit Box from IELLO is an incredibly appealing concept. Billing itself on the box as ‘the first generation board game console’, it’s a collection of games lovingly homaging classic video games. The inner box looks like a video games console, with power buttons, a disc slot and even cable inputs as part of the design. The player boards are game controllers in various colours – with some even having faux stickers on the back, as if they’ve been customised by players. The console concept means that games which use the 8-Bit Box as a ‘platform’ can all be played using standardised components – such as the controllers, but also the dice and cubes that are packaged in the box.
There are three games inside, each of which is boxed in packaging reminiscent of classic cardboard video game cases – the three titles bundled with the ‘console’ are: Pixoid, Outspeed and Stadium. Pixoid is a clear homage to Pac-Man, Outspeed an F-Zero tribute and – somewhat disappointingly, to me at least – Stadium is a Track and Field-esque sports game. It’s a shame that the subject matter of Stadium couldn’t have been something more interesting – with so many video game genres to choose from, sports just seems like an incredibly bland and unadventurous choice to me (even the name itself is boringly generic).
However, for this review I’ll be focusing on the game that has the most immediately obvious video game inspiration – Pixoid. It’s an asymmetrical game where one player, cast as Pixoid, must survive for as many turns as possible while being chased by the other players, who are all Bugs (functionally, this role is clearly modelled after the Pac-Man’s ghosts). For each turn survived, the Pixoid player earns a white cube worth a single victory point; there are also four more of these cubes on the board which the Pixoid player can collect while moving around.
The round ends one of two ways: either the Pixoid player is caught or the Pixoid player collects all twelve of the white cubes from the supply. The Bug players score a point for each cube left in the supply, then a new round is played with the next player taking their turn to be the Pixoid – this continues until each player has had their turn as Pixoid – and the player with the most points at this stage wins.
The general gameplay sees players using their controllers to secretly ‘program’ their turn; a number is chosen from the dial at the top of the controller (this must be between 1 and 9) in order to show how many spaces their character will move, as well as the direction they’ll move in – which is selected from the left dial. Once both have been chosen, players turn their controller upside down and all players reveal their ‘program’ simultaneously. The Pixoid player moves first, followed by the Bug players who move themselves simultaneously. If the Pixoid stops or goes through a bonus cube, they collect it; if the Bugs run into or through Pixoid, they win.
It’s a straightforward and satisfyingly fun game. There’s a real excitement to being Pixoid and – without being able to communicate their intentions to one another – the Bug players also get to feel satisfyingly smug when their unspoken plans come together to trap the Pixoid player. Rounds are short and the game never outstays its welcome. It’s very straightforward to learn and teach; despite the asymmetrical nature of the game with its Pixoid or Bug roles, the gameplay is fundamentally the same – it’s just the objective that differs for each role – so it isn’t difficult to move from one role to another once the basics of ‘programming’ moves are learned.
As mentioned above, the overall aesthetic is unbelievably well done; the homage to Pac-Man is brilliantly done without being copyright-infringing. That said, I would absolutely love to see a fully licensed version – released separately to the 8-Bit Box – with actual Pac-Man characters included. The general feel, with the controllers and glow of the ‘graphics’ on the boards and player tiles, lends it a very arcade-style, classic video game atmosphere.
After trying Pixoid, I’m very keen to give the other two included games a go; additionally, there’s a fourth ‘cartridge’ box in the package which promises that further games will be released as well. As a concept – especially for those board gamers among us who are also keen video gamers – the 8-Bit Box is an absolute triumph; the entire design of the box and components is probably among the best I have ever seen in the world of board games, though I may be somewhat biased due to my lifelong love of video games. If Outspeed and Stadium are anywhere near as fun as Pixoid, the 8-Bit Box will undoubtedly be a package that has a place in the collection of any gamer.
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