Tucked away near the back of the GDC Play hall at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is a game that’s part Cave Story and part Blaster Master. A.N.N.E. is a pixelated, exploration-based game that combines the gunplay of 8-bit shooters like Contra with a large world filled with secrets, some of which can only be accessed by hopping into your trusty ship.

I played A.N.N.E. using a PC-friendly SNES controller clone, which further helps the game feel like a piece of missing history. Platforming through the world on foot and blasting enemies feels great. A helpful shoulder button lets you fix your guns and aim while moving, allowing you to shoot enemies at specific angles while dodging. Certain rooms introduce puzzling situations, like switches that must be shot from a distance to make platforms extend from the wall. Careful timing is required to navigate these tricky sections. Other areas are blocked off by special bricks that can’t be destroyed by your regular peashooter, hinting that stronger weaponry will be available down the road.

Developer Moise Breton showing off A.N.N.E. at the IDGA Demo Night in Montreal

To see all of A.N.N.E.’s open-world, players must board their ship and fly around the cavernous map. As mentioned before, transitioning from the on-foot segments to vehicle exploration reminds me of the 8-bit classic Blaster Master. The ship is equipped with a gravity tether which allows you to move heavy objects like boulders around the map. During the demo I moved these boulders next to tall ledges so I could reach new areas after exiting the ship.

A.N.N.E.’s bright visuals, killer chiptune soundtrack, and on-foot/flight mechanics come together to form something special. Developer Gamesbymo, a solo effort by former Beenox staffer Moise Breton, is planning to release A.N.N.E. on PC by the end of 2013.