Unichrome: A 1-Bit Unicorn Adventure

A game by Super8bitRafa for PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox X/S, originally released in 2022.
Unichrome: A 1-Bit Unicorn Adventure is a lo-fi shooter-platformer starring a plucky little rainbow unicorn with a bunch of big guns. You take on the role of this unicorn, named Itchi, as she awakens within some kind of specimen tank after having been in stasis for a thousand years. She soon discovers that six other animals have also awakened from stasis, led by a unicorn named Century. Century enters the Color Core and steals several color-coded gems, which she hands out to her similarly-hued minions.
With each of these gems stolen, the world is drained of color, but as Itchi visits each area, she sees that there is one extra color mixed into the world around her, as represented by the animals and their gems. She must face off against each animal to retrieve these gems – which act as the game’s boss encounters – and then take the fight to the power-mad Century to restore color to the world.
The game’s aesthetic is one of a glitchy world with chunky neo-retro visuals, a frenzied soundtrack, and low-color (but not 1-bit) sprites. Environments are messy, busy, and filled with odd angles, representing a world in decline, but things regularly erupt into chaos as huge numbers of oversized wobbily-animated enemies appear, and the screen fills with bullets flying in every direction, explosions of color whenever enemies are destroyed, and plenty of screenshake. This is accompanied by flying dust clouds, spent shell casings, spinning coins, flashing spikes, and tiles that glitch out when the player shoots them.
Further enforcing this wild and glitchy aesthetic is a screen that snaps quickly to the left or right when changing directions, and there is no scrolling buffer when jumping, meaning that the screen scrolls instantly when you move. This camera movement can make the controls feel jerky, and it can also make it difficult to line up landings on platforms, especially if you need to adjust your direction in midair. This is even more apparent in the many areas where you navigate insta-death traps like spikes, electricity, and bottomless pits that offer little margin for error.
Itchi has a very high variable jump, and she begins the game with three hearts in her health bar, which are lost in 1-heart increments, and she has a long invincibility period. Health pickups are uncommon, but grabbing a heart when the health meter is full extends the meter by another heart, and this effect is stackable, potentially allowing skilled players to pad out their life bars, although the effect only lasts for the duration of the level. Otherwise, there are moderately-placed checkpoints to which Itchi respawns when she is killed, and most enemies and collectibles remain absent upon respawn (although this is oddly not the case if the player is killed before a checkpoint and must restart the level).
Itchi’s starting weapon is an infinite ammo pistol that fires as quickly as you can pull the trigger. The gun bobs a bit so projectiles fly off at slight angles, adding to the chaotic nature of the game, and you can fire in four directions (down while jumping). Throughout the game, Itchi collects a variety of limited ammo weapons that are reloaded by collecting the associated ammunition icons. For the most part, she only carries a few weapons at a time, which eliminates the need to cycle through a bunch of weapon slots, and it encourages players to try out different weapons.
Each weapon is individually upgradeable, which is done by speaking to shopkeepers found within the levels, with upgrades generally allowing for more damage, extended range, and less recoil… although some later weapons are locked into firing only to the left or right unless the player purchases a 4-way upgrade. Money is plentiful, appearing as pickups within the level and as drops from killed enemies, but players must often make a choice between several upgrades, as they usually won’t be able afford all of them. Shopkeepers also sell secondary weapons in the form of bombs, Molotov cocktails, and deployable turrets.
Weapons include a 3-way shotgun with bouncing projectiles that can be upgraded to a 5-way shot with auto fire. Each projectile does damage individually, so a single projectile is the same strength as your pistol, but hitting an enemy with more than one bullet increases the damage, making this a great up-close weapon, and useful when dealing with enemies positioned at an angle (the 5-way upgrade is needed to fire at downward angles). A machine gun fires a wild spray of bullets, and it’s worth buying the reduced recoil upgrade here, since it constantly pushes you back as you fire.
The pistol, shotgun, and machine gun are your tools of destruction for the first three chapters, but after a major event occurs, you find yourself in Chapter 4 with no weapons, and only a dash maneuver. This chapter serves to break up the weapon-based gameplay that dominates the rest of the experience, while adding several new challenges. For one, gaps between platforms are larger, as you can now jump and dash across them, but you must also engage enemies directly in order to defeat them, since the dash causes damage to enemies and cancels projectiles. This chapter consists of a lot of insta-death electrical traps and bottomless pits, as well as conveyor belts that push you toward these traps, requiring plenty of speed and dexterity to overcome.
Chapter 5 changes things up again by introducing a flamethrower and a freeze ray, with your only other weapon being your pistol. The flamethrower does continuous burning damage to enemies, and it burns through vines that block your path. By default, this weapon can only be fired to the left or right and it has a limited range, but upgrading it greatly extends its range and power and allows you to shoot in four directions. This is particularly effective since the weapon shoots through walls, allowing you to take down many enemies without fear of retaliation.
Even more unusual is the freeze ray that – as expected – freezes enemies. For weaker enemies, freezing them holds them in place, and running into them causes them to be destroyed. For large eyeball enemies that usually explode into three smaller eyeballs when destroyed, the freeze ray negates this effect and allows them to be destroyed instantly. More importantly, larger frozen enemies can be used to reach higher platforms and hidden areas, as jumping onto them allows you to bounce upward slightly. And there are a few friendly creatures that exist solely to act as springboards to allow you to reach higher platforms.
While most areas are largely linear, there are occasional side paths, false walls, and hidden alcoves containing ammo, health, and/or coins, along with the occasional unicorn shoe, and these shoes are used to unlock options and upgrades in the main menu. However, things change again in Chapter 6, which is a sort of mini metroidvania where players must collect each of their weapons to slowly open up the area and allow for backtracking to make progress… and this area includes two new weapon types as well.
One other important tool becomes available to in Chapter 3, and that is a grappling hook. It works a bit differently than grappling hooks in other games, and as a result, it is both more versatile and somewhat more difficult to use. With the grappling hook selected (it occupies the same inventory slot as your secondary weapons), a button press allows you to connect to any nearby grapple point, as indicated by a ring around it. It’s not necessary to jump or disconnect from a previous grapple before connecting to the next one, which allows you to quickly connect from one to the next, but this can also cause problems as you may inadvertently pull yourself into spikes or even glitch through solid objects when a grapple connection is made.
While connected to a grapple point, players may speed up, slow down, and reel themselves in and out, which includes lowering themselves down through rows of spikes in certain challenges. While the auto-connect mechanic makes it easier to move from one grapple point to another, it’s difficult for players to gauge their speed when accelerating or decelerating, making it hard to line up platform landings when disconnecting. Unfortunately, players must often complete many successful grapple transitions between checkpoints with very little margin for error, meaning that a lot of these challenges will need to be repeated.
Spread throughout many levels are caged NPC’s that can be rescued for ammo or health rewards. These animals yell things to get your attention, and the positional audio can help you to determine how close they are to you, and in which direction. The animals are also quite funny, both in tone and delivery, matching up with the game’s overall sense of humor, which is supported by fully voiced performances. Among their sayings is a very shy-sounding “Ma’am?”, along with “Ayuda me!” (“Help me” in Spanish), and “I’m freeee!” when they are rescued. Further adding to the fun of NPC rescues the animation for their cages breaking open and a huge rainbow suddenly bursting forth as their escape route.
Enemy behaviors are simple and therefore easy to predict, which is important when you’re often engaging them in such great numbers. Boss behaviors are similarly simple, with their difficulty coming from long health bars and large sprays of bullets. That said, shooter veterans should have little trouble tackling them, and players who have purchased weapon upgrades can knock down their life bars quickly. Boss encounters are also bookended with some silly dialogue exchanges, and the occasional reappearance of Century, the primary antagonist.
While the game world consists of an overall glitchy aesthetic, there are unfortunately a number of glitches that don’t fall into the “haha” category, which include occasional lockups and crashes. There are also some soft locks in situations where Itchi may endlessly repeat a death animation without respawning, which requires you to exit the game completely and restart. Sometimes the grapple will extend but not connect, and you’ll lose your grapple connection if you pause the game.
There are some less egregious glitches like issues with audio looping that causes portions of dialogue to be replayed, or a level where there’s a popup spike trap at the exit, creating a damage loop and causing the summary screen to load very slowly. These glitches are accompanied by a few instances where a bit of added polish is needed, such as dialogue exchanges, animations, and enemy spawns happening while the game is paused. There are also no transitions when defeating bosses (such as a death animation), but rather the fights abruptly end as the follow-up cutscenes begin playing.
In addition to the main campaign, there are several unlockable modes and other options, some of which are unlocked with unicorn shoes (the level select interface shows the levels where you collected these shoes). These include a score-based endless mode with procedurally generated levels, boss practice and boss rush modes, time trials, and several wave-based colosseum modes. There are also some cheats for skipping levels, unlocking every upgrade, and equipping all of your guns at once.

Unichrome: A 1-Bit Unicorn Adventure was developed by Super8bitRafa, the development label of Rafael Estrada, a solo developer based in Kentucky who previously created a number of freeware and game jam releases, including Slime Whisperer, Leaving, and the Neon Nights series. Music for the game was composed by Jaggy Fox, and the game was created using GameMaker.
Unichrome was originally developed over the course of three days as part of a game jam with a theme of “rainbow unicorn”. Following the success of the short 4-level prototype, Rafa decided to transform it into a full-fledged commercial release, which was developed over the course of four years. Elements that carried over from the prototype include the infinite ammo pistol, platforming sequences with spikes and disappearing/reappearing platforms, and several of the enemy types, along with the cute rainbow unicorn protagonist.

The game was published by Super8bitRafa and The Street Level Hero – a company created by Super8bitRafa – with console versions ported and published by Ternox Games. Ternox Games is based in Ukraine and publishes GameMaker Studio titles on consoles, including ReactorX, Void Source, and Nyakamon Adventures, and the studio is also a development label with releases including Taimumari, Legend of Himari, and In-Vert.