Review: Meganoid (2017)06 May 2017 0
Review: Meganoid (2017)
Released 29 Mar 2017
Once again, I have been entrusted with reviewing a roguelike. So engrained I have become with them that I fear I’ll leave the house one day and all the streets will have moved around. The general rules about roguelikes revolve around discovery and dying… a lot. They tend to be difficult but never unfair, laying down consistent rules that you begin to understand more with each play through.
Meganoid 2017 wears its influences on its sleeve so hard you would think they were tattooed on. The prime suspect here being Derek Wu’s Spelunky, a game I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times now. Here, though, Orangepixel swaps the treacherous caves and jungles for deep space. Visually the game is indebted to pixel art, and for the most part it all works, though some of the enemies are difficult to define, with an early enemy looking like an orange cauliflower in a laboratory coat.
The general explosions and lasers all animate well, and the backgrounds have an extra level of attention to detail that makes all the difference in making the world feel alive. One odd and occasionally annoying visual aspect is how dark the game is. Even with the brightness on my tablet ramped up to max, parts of the environment strain on your eyes as you slap the device against your face to see what is going on. This is particularly evident in the Bio-dome, which added with the mass influx of lasers and rockets; meaning there is a rather large spike in the difficulty between the first and second ‘worlds’.
Levels are procedurally generated but keep within the theme of that level until you move onto the next different environment. Starting from the top of the level, you work your way down, looking for the exit somewhere along the bottom. You’ll face a variety of enemies, along with environmental hazards (lazers, spikes) and items that change their location each time you play.
Levels are littered with gold, with the unique feature of dropping to the floor if you are within arms reach, which is neat idea, but a bit of a pain when you’re hovering over a spike pit. Shops pop up within levels, just like Spelunky, though it doesn’t let you shoot the shop owner with a shotgun, so that makes it inferior as well.
There is a decent variety in the items available, and it keeps within the nature of roguelikes by not giving too much information away, instead, allowing players to tinker and experiment with items to see what they can do and how they can benefit. You start the game being given 8 sticks of dynamite. The environment is fully destructible (besides the out layer – no falling through the world), so if you end up stuck in an area you can’t get out off, both the dynamite and elevating platforms you can collect will help in a pinch. The procedurally generated mechanics work – for the most part, though sometimes you’ll get to the end of a corridor that doesn’t hold anything, which feels like something missing in the games algorithm. It is a big gripe of mine: if you ask the player to explore space you should reward them so, even if it something as basic as gold (or whatever you currency of choice is). The example I always reach for is Super Metroid, a game that is crafted to make every area have a worthwhile meaning to explore – even if for an item that is not crucial to the games completion. Now it is impressive to create a game that uses procedurally generated content instead of creating a fixed game from beginning to end, but Meganoid 2017 only highlights how good games such as Spelunky and Rogue Legacy are in creating these worlds, and how it feels thoroughly average in comparison.
The whole time playing Meganoid 2017, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling the whole thing felt like a pale imitation – a perfectly serviceable imitation, but one that makes me pine for the the real thing. The platforming doesn’t feel as tight or fluid as it should, which is partially down to playing a platform style game with an onscreen controller, but also because it doesn’t have the momentum and fluidity of better received platformers. There is MFi controller support, but that’s always a solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist with touchscreen gaming. Overall it feels slow and cumbersome, and exploring the environment doesn’t feel as enjoyable as it should. There is a neat additional mechanic of being able to cling on to the edge of a ledge, letting you climb up to reach a higher platform, but you will find yourself slipping off for no reason, a number of times with an environmental hazard directly below you.
Audio is presented with a minimalistic direction in mind. It is effective in bringing atmosphere across, as most of the sounds come from enemies growling, though there is little in the way of dynamics or use of this as a gameplay element. The monsters “cry” or however you wish to describe it doesn’t change to give you an indication of how near or far away it is, so the atmosphere that is present at the start slowly peels away to show a looping mp3 – breaking the immersion.
There is no arguing the game has a ton of content. Having spent about six hours with it, I’m still picking up new items along the way, along with discovering new mechanics and areas by sheer luck. But it feels like a game that has three to six months left of development to iron out the kinks still plaguing it.
The game is a standalone purchase; there are no IAPs, adverts and no always-online play.
Meganoid 2017 is an incredibly challenging game, but it is one that hangs on this challenge because of both intended design and poor controls. When you die from a laser that was off screen, it teaches you to tread more carefully and pay attention to your environment. When you slip off the edge of a platform into a spike trap due to the controls, it just leads just annoyance and frustration. I like certain elements about this game: parts of the presentation and level design, plus the large array of item, but I can’t see myself coming back to it anytime soon.