The Evercade’s “Indie Heroes” cartridge plays host to a variety of brand new games for classic platforms — and even if you don’t have an Evercade, you can try most of these for yourself in one way or another! Let’s explore them in detail!
Deadeus is an indie horror game, developed for original Game Boy and available as part of the Indie Heroes Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade.
Indie retro-style horror games, in my experience, can be a little hit or miss. While there are a lot of developers out there who are very good at nailing the distinctive aesthetic of a particular console platform — the original PlayStation is especially popular right now — story is sometimes left a bit wanting. In particular, all too many of today’s indie horror games have absolutely awful endings; in many cases it feels like the developers in question spent too much time trying to get the atmosphere and aesthetic right, and not enough time on actually ensuring the story makes sense.
Deadeus is, thankfully, different. By virtue of the fact that it is developed specifically for the original Game Boy rather than being a modern game paying homage to a past platform, the hard work of creating a distinctly retro vibe is mostly taken care of naturally without having to do anything particularly out of the ordinary. This left developer Izma able to focus on the important things: crafting a convincing world and a compelling narrative.
And, as a result, the combination of the game’s excellent graphics, sound design and well-crafted narrative all mean that what we have here is an extremely high quality release.
In Deadeus, you take control of a boy living in a small town. You, like the other children in town, have been plagued with nightmares of an impending apocalypse; supposedly, according to the nightmares, the world is going to end in three days as the deity Deadeus returns to reclaim the flesh he “loaned” to humanity. From hereon, it’s your choice as to how you spend what may or may not be your last three days on Earth.
The particularly interesting thing about Deadeus is that at no point does it feel like it’s railroading you down a specific path. There are eleven possible endings, but none of them necessarily feel like the one you’re “supposed” to get. Instead, the conclusion to your own personal story in the game will be a direct result of how you approached the situation and whether or not you thought you could — or should — do anything about it.
And in keeping with that, the different narrative threads you can tug at have markedly different feels to them. Will you pursue a relationship with the girl who lives next door, who seems to like you? Will you trust the mysterious robed figure who is skulking around town but refuses to give you any straight answers? Do you even believe the stories that the end is coming — and if so, do you really think that you, as a single individual, are able to do anything about the situation?
As the game progresses, there’s a delightful sense of bleakness that sets in, created entirely through the tone of the dialogue and the simple Game Boy chiptune backing music. The game does a fantastic job of keeping things feeling ambiguous and unclear right up until the end — and indeed, most of the endings leave you with a few questions that can only be answered through your own interpretation of what you’ve just witnessed. That’s good horror.
The technically limited visuals and sound actually add a great deal to the atmosphere, because the overall “look” of the game is very much inspired by classic Japanese role-playing games on the platform such as the Pokémon series. This creates a deceptively “cutesy” vibe to the game, which is almost immediately subverted by the oppressive music and, later, some of the gruesome scenes it’s possible to witness over the course of the narrative.
By far the best thing, though, is the sense of this little world going about its business, and the fact that you’re just one part of what’s going on. Although no-one in the game has an actual name, over the course of the three in-game days you get to know everyone quite well — and that makes certain decisions you might find yourself having to consider carry all the more weight.
It really is refreshing to have a narrative-centric game that provides this much sense of freedom — and where complete inaction is a perfectly valid response to the situation at hand. Indeed, given the moral implications of some of the more complex “solutions” to the game, some might even find it a preferable approach. Is it better to meet an inevitable end with no regrets than it is to have to live with the consequences of reprehensible actions?
That’s just one of many questions Deadeus will present you with over the course of its short runtime. And, as a result, this is a game that will stick with you long after you’ve seen all of those possible conclusions.