Evercade Game of the Month 2023 #1: Donut Dodo
We’re very pleased to welcome our Indie Heroes friends back to the Evercade platform for another round of Game of the Month!
Game of the Month is a programme for Evercade VS and Evercade EXP owners where you can download a free game every month between April and December. You can enjoy the full version of each game without limits for a month, at which point it will be replaced with a brand new game. Early in 2024, all of the Game of the Month titles from 2023 will be collected together into an Indie Heroes 3 cartridge, together with a few cartridge-exclusive games to sweeten the deal even further, and you’ll be able to add them to your Evercade library permanently!
The first game in the 2023 Game of the Month lineup is, without a doubt, one of the best modern retro indie games we’ve ever seen on Evercade. We’re absolutely delighted to bring you the incredible Donut Dodo by pixel.games, a wonderful homage to early ’80s arcade games, but designed for modern systems and running natively on Evercade, without emulation.
Special thanks must go to Emanuele Fornara, who developed a new export target for the Godot engine on which Donut Dodo runs, allowing the game to come to Evercade in the first place. His work potentially opens up a whole new world of native games for the platform, and we’ll have more to share on that soon.
We’re also delighted that artist and developer Sebastian Kostka was kind enough to sit down with us for a quick chat about the game, and about his experiences with gaming and game development in general.
“My first game was the same as everyone else’s: a brick breaker,” explained Seb when we asked him about his very first game, programmed in 1982 for the popular ZX Spectrum home computer. “For the first couple of months after getting our family Speccy, we did not have a tape recorder to load and save games with. So I found a listing somewhere to type in a Breakout clone in BASIC. Which I did whenever I felt like playing, so probably daily for quite a while. That’s where it all started.”
Seb compares the modern indie development scene to the bedroom programmer movement of early home computer culture, whereby the popular systems’ built-in programming languages and lack of walled garden software distribution ecosystems provided everyone with a computer the opportunity to become a professional game developer — given the time, effort, talent and patience.
At the same time, though, the fledgling nature of the industry made it challenging for these bedroom programmers to stand out. The lack of those walled garden ecosystems meant that there was no equivalent of today’s curated digital storefronts to get your game out into the wild — without a publishing partner, you’d have to copy those disks and tapes yourself, and advertise through specialist magazines.
“I think the indie scene is very much a revival of what used to be the bedroom programmer movement,” he explained to us. “The freedom to create and take risks, either solo or in small teams. Programmer during the day, artist at night and accountant over the weekend.
“Obviously nowadays, software distribution is much more accessible, tools for creating games are easily available and indies have no more hardware limitations to contend with,” he continued, “but the spirit is still very much the same.”
We were curious about Seb’s background with retro gaming in general, so we decided to pick his brain about some favourite titles — particularly those that can be enjoyed on Evercade.
“I have a soft spot for early Namco arcade games like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga,” he explained. “But I also love the mid-’80s with classics like OutRun, Space Harrier, Commando, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins and Bubble Bobble. My go-to Evercade cart is THEC64 Collection 1, and recently I’ve been enjoying the Capcom Collection on the EXP.”
It turns out that Seb had been hoping to get his game on Evercade for quite some time prior to its release through Game of the Month!
“I’ve always thought we would be a great fit, as both Evercade and pixel.games cater to the exact same audience,” he said. “When I first contacted Blaze to enquire about bringing games to the yet-to-be-released OG handheld, I was told that the initial focus of the system was solely on emulation.
“After finishing Donut Dodo, I decided to give it another shot,” he continued. “This was before Cathedral was released, so I was not aware that native games were now being considered for the system. This time it worked out, and here we are!”
And it’s a great place to be. Donut Dodo is a fantastic game, channelling the spirit of early ’80s arcade games while providing its own distinctive modern twist on the formula. Like those classic games, it’s a challenging title whose basic mechanics are easy to learn but hard to master — so be prepared to put in some practice if you want to nab those high scores.
“Donut Dodo is a love letter to the golden age of arcade gaming as a whole,” Seb explained to us. “It’s an ode to the memories we cherish to this day. While early Nintendo and Namco titles are obvious inspirations for the game, there are quite a few other classics Donut Dodo pays respect to.
“At the same time, I did not want to get too locked into the mechanics of games of old,” he elaborated. “So I made a point of not playing any of those titles, nor watching any videos of them, before creating Donut Dodo. I did study screenshots of high score tables, though, as I’d forgotten what those were like!”
While Donut Dodo is designed in the style of an arcade game from 1983, it’s still been created using modern development techniques. We were curious about how authentic Seb had chosen to keep the experience — or if the conveniences of modern technology tempted him to modernise things a bit.
“For the visuals and music, we made sure to respect the hardware limitations of around 1983 to provide an authentic arcade experience,” he told us. “Some have been debating whether the animations are too smooth or the music too rich for the era. My answer to that is we now have far better tools to create those assets [within those hardware limitations] while drawing from decades of experience.
“At the same time, I invested a lot of work creating really tight controls for the player,” he added. “I do not believe this could have been achieved on the 8-bit systems of the early ’80s. We now have the best of both worlds!”
With Donut Dodo having already proven a big hit on other platforms and set for another round of success on Evercade, we were curious as to what we would see from pixel.games next.
“I’m still in the process of wrapping up Donut Dodo Do!, the arcade version of the game,” Seb told us. “It will be released this year for professional arcade operators around the world. Following that, I will be announcing a new project. What I can say for now is that it won’t be a brick-breaker!”
Well, with the top-tier quality of Donut Dodo we’ll certainly be happy to welcome Seb back to Evercade when that new project comes to light — and we’re sure you will, too.
To get started with Donut Dodo and the new Game of the Month programme for 2023, connect your Evercade VS or EXP to the Internet via the Network option in Settings, then perform a system update to the latest available firmware version. When you’re all updated, you’re ready to go — start the game through the Evercade menu and prepare to enjoy some classic ’80s style arcade fun!
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