Controversial research aboard a Martian space station leads to the creation of an armor suit that has cataclysmic powers. When the two head scientists decide to equip their son Kojo with the suit it understandably freaks out the people of Earth and Mars. Just as their robot armies mobilize to destroy the research station the entire planet of Mars vanishes. This prompts Adwoa, the mother of Kojo to set out in search for answers.
Retro “inspired” titles are a dime a dozen these days, but they all tend to focus on the console side of things. Lots of liberties are also usually taken with the term retro as well, so I was very interested to see what Muri had to offer. It is billed as a retro 80s experience and styled like one of the DOS era shooters such as Commander Keen, Duke Nukem and Bio Menace. As I spent countless hours playing these games back on my trusty old 386 computer, booting up Muri felt like stepping into a time machine.
It is very clear that the developers of Muri spent a lot of time studying the classic DOS platform titles in order to recreate an authentic experience. The game uses the 16-color EGA palette for all the visuals and pulled it off so convincingly that I am sure many people thought that Muri was released back in the 80s. Even the slightly jerky frame rate that characterized games of that era has been recreated, although there is an optional “Turbo” mode to smooth things out.
The game is set across four episodes with five levels each, although episode one is not Shareware as it was customary back in the day. The final level of each episode is always a climactic boss battle and I must say that these encounters impressed me. While there is plenty of platform jumping the focus is definitely on the shooting. Adwoa is equipped with a robotic suit (a nod to Metroid perhaps) and have access to six different bullet types. The MKV fires bullets in a spread pattern while the laser bounces off surfaces and the rockets have homing capabilities.
Holding down the fire button locks Adwoa into position so you can jump and strafe while shooting in the same direction which comes in handy during boss battles. Enemies consist of the usual assortment of robots and turrets although some bio-weapons also make an appearance during later episodes. Apart from shooting foes you can actually jump on their heads as well, but blasting them apart is much easier.
Although levels are fairly linear and it is rare that you would need to backtrack there is plenty of secret passages to uncover. These leads to collectibles such as floppy discs and DOS prompts that reward you with a higher score, energy canisters for health or even extra lives. While you only need to find the exit to finish a level, collecting all the items and killing all the enemies contribute to your completion percentage. Besides blasting your enemies, several force fields usually bar your way. You need to destroy reactors to open these doors, but this is usually a matter of following the very visible power lines to their source.
The game emulates the PC speaker audio of the 80s quite well and hearing these familiar sounding effects was a nice blast of nostalgia. Unfortunately it also means that there is no background music during levels only sound effects. The song played on the title screen is quite good so I would have liked to hear some more tunes. I played the game using a controller but everything works just as well with the keyboard. It takes a while to get used to the jumping as your characters jumping height depends on how long you keep down the button. There are four difficulty settings ranging from the very easy to quite tough, but unfortunately no Steam achievements. There are however some nifty Steam trading cards to collect.
Muri is obviously aimed at players that can appreciate a solid retro title, but with such a low price tag you don’t have much to lose by trying it out. The game can be tricky on higher difficulty levels, but it is never frustrating or unfair. There is no save option but the episodes are short enough that this isn’t such a big issue. If you want an authentic retro platforming experience, right down to the “Press F1 for help” prompt at the bottom of the screen then you will definitely want to check out Muri.
*Review originally published January 2014.