"It started as a way to show off an album, but the developers' passion clearly shines through in the finished product."
I've been a fan of point & click adventure games for many years now, and I love it when I play a game developed by someone who I can tell is a fellow fan. After all, it's one thing to make a game that looks retro, but it's another to make a game that's good and just happens to follow a classic aesthetic. Lucky for me, Bik is just such a game.
The game tells the story of a human boy named Bik who gets abducted by aliens. And also the story of some other aliens named Ammut and Tatenen who are also abducted by the same jerks who nabbed Bik. And
the story of farmers who are being run out of business by a huge corporation. Which makes it sound much more disjointed than it is, but there's only an occasional feeling that you're playing a set of unconnected scenes. The characters are believable — for example, Bik is excited about his big adventure, and his companions trust him, but are still nervous about allowing a kid to be in dangerous situations — and their dialogue is written well. (And free of typos or editing mistakes as far as I can tell, which is all too rare in indie games.)
Like so many games these days, Bik's retro style is shown most clearly in its pixelated visuals. The characters and environments all look good, and there's great attention to detail. Ammut and Tatenen's spaceship is old and nearly falling apart, and it shows. Pixel hunting is only required once or twice, and for those occasions there is an icon at the top of the screen that highlights all of the on-screen clickable items for a few seconds. My issue was never that something was too tiny to see — it was that I just didn't notice the thing I was supposed to use.
The gameplay and controls are classic point & click. You look at things, pick them up, combine them in your inventory, talk to people, and solve puzzles. The puzzles are logical, although there are times when you'll solve something before it becomes relevant, or without the reasons ever becoming clear. For example, in an early section of the game, you make a sandwich and eat it... but as far as I can tell, the only reason why you do so is that sandwiches are awesome. (Seriously, they are probably my favorite food.) My only complaint is that since the game was designed for touchscreens, the keyboard isn't used enough. I would have liked the ability to hit the "I" key and open my inventory, for example, but clicking is the only option.
I enjoyed the whole experience, but the music particularly stood out. And that stands to reason, because it turns out that the music came first. As the developers' website tells the story: While composing music for his latest electronic music album, [Mike] Pinto enlisted the help of artist Neil Numberman to design album art inspired by retro video games. When he saw Neil's first pieces of art and how perfectly they fit with his compositions, the world of Bik was born. Pinto says, "At first, I decided to build a small one level demo that a listener could poke around in while listening to the album. But after building that level, I was hooked, and I had no choice but to turn Bik into a full-length video game."
It's great music, and it fits the game very well. The electronic tunes work with the setting and with the retro feel, but do so without seeming dated. There is no voice acting per se, but each character in the game has a unique sort of ringtone that plays whenever they say something. And in a really cool little touch, the tones for characters of the same species sound musically related to each other.
Bik isn't a long game, and you can finish it in just a few concentrated play sessions, but I think it comes mighty close to the sweet spot between length and padding things just for the sake of having a longer game. It started as a way to show off an album, but the developers' passion clearly shines through in the finished product. As of this writing, the game is only $7.99 ($2.99 on iOS or Android), or it can be purchased in a bundle with the soundtrack for $10. If you enjoy point & click games, I'd say that it's absolutely worth the purchase price.