With the sheer number of games that come out every year, it’s really a miracle that we find out about the amount of incredible indie games that we do. And even for people like me, who play way too many games and know about even more, a few real gems still sneak past our radar. Super Cable Boy is absolutely one that‘s been unfairly slept on, but the magic of the internet means that it’s never too late to get on its circuit boards.
Super Cable Boy is a retro platformer about a little handheld game console trying to stop the glitch from consuming their world. The game's movement has standard jumping and dashing, but is vastly improved by inclusions like using your little power cable as a grappling hook, and an ability to flip between dimensions. All these skills come in the form of game cartridges, which fit the world perfectly while also adding another level of mechanical interest to the game. As an old school console, there are no digital downloads here - while you can swap on the fly, you can only have one ability active at a time.
Each zone is primarily designed around one ability (the one you got last), ending in a boss fight to get the next cartridge. This structure reminds me of an almost stripped down Ori and the Blind Forest - a focus on platforming complemented by boss battles that are hyper-focused tests of the same mechanic you just mastered. The zones all had a good amount of variety, allowing you to explore the same mechanic in a variety of new ways. Many of the levels were tough, but I would say over all it’s pretty accessible to people who aren’t necessarily platforming pros.
Still though, it's a one-life platformer with tight sections and some precise timing needed - not exactly a cake walk. If your little handheld buddy could use some hand holding of their own, there's an option to increase your life count as much as you need to get through the levels. Personally I think this is a great compromise from having different difficulty modes, as it lets you choose how much help you need getting through the levels while still allowing you to actually give the mechanics a try. If you find yourself on the opposite end of the challenge spectrum, you'll be happy to know that each stage has extra challenge onigiri to collect.
Beyond direct modifiers, a lot of the accessibility lies in the thoughtful level design. The environment is used to clue you into how you should move through the level, whether it’s clouds that lightly trace out the best path forward or hanging wires that indicate where your next grapple point is going to be. This helps makes the world feel comfortable and real for players, while giving hints that don't feel overbearing.
This world needs no help pulling you in though. The main character, with their expressive ASCII thought bubbles and kind attitude is the type of sentient hardware you want to root for. The color palette is steeped in soft pastels to give contrast to the dark glitch effects that represent the dangers in each map. It's rounded off well with a great soundtrack and a light but solid story for a complete atmosphere that keeps you having a good time, even when you've bounced off the same wall 110 times (that's 6 in binary, I'm not that clumsy).
Super Cable Boy was a super enjoyable precision platformer that finds new ways to lean into the retro aesthetic of old handheld consoles. It appeals to pros through optional collection challenges, balanced with options to help first-timers find their groove. The cohesive atmosphere brings it all together, from the game cartridge abilities to using your power cable as a grappling hook, every detail felt right at home in this cyber world.
Super Cable Boy is available on PC through Steam, and on the Nintendo Switch.