Metagal isn’t half bad for a game that many would consider to be a Mega Man clone. Whilst there’s clearly a similar structure, Metagal manages to walk in a light of its own. There’s issues to be mindful of, of course, but at basics, it’s a solid 2D platformer action game. There’s a story buried underneath it, but it’s not all that interesting to be fair. Players take on the role of the titular Meta, a female cyborg that’s on a quest to rescue her maker from the nefarious General Creeper and his legions of evildoers. It’s predictable, but it fits.
The crux of play sees you taking on a collection of levels that ultimately has you going up against your siblings come a level’s end. You see, General Creeper didn’t just kidnap your maker, but your sisters too, and worse, he’s corrupted them into using their powers for evil. Now, as Meta, you must face off against them, defeat them, and then copy their powers for your own gain. That, ladies and gents, is the sum of the game’s structural depth. Like I said, it’s to the point and straightforward, but there’s certainly some fun to be had here regardless.
The gameplay is your traditional jump and shoot affair. You’ll move through the game’s compact yet short levels, nab new abilities, and take on bosses before moving onto the next; rinse and repeat. What’s interesting here is that the game adopts a unique gear system. This alleviates much of the game’s frustration in regards to its death penalty. Whereas in its peers, death usually means a complete wipe, in Metagal, you’re actually able to restart from your last screen so long as you have the required gears in your inventory.
You’ll find gears in the environment, as well as from foes that you dispose of. The game plays on a screen-by-screen basis, meaning that you’ll move to the desired side of the screen, and then be slid onto the next screen with no ability of turning back. With gears, if you die, you’ll be returned to the last time that the screen transitioned. Without gears, you’re either sent back to your last checkpoint (typically just before a boss) and failing that, straight back to the start of the level. It’s a fair system that doesn’t penalize you too much.
It’s a shame I cant say the same about the gameplay itself. Metagal is chock-full of cheap deaths. Whether you’re hit by an enemy in mid-air and then sent straight onto instant-kill spikes, or, flung off the map due to poor hit detection, you’ll find no shortage of game blame here. It’s the game’s greatest drawback, which is massively problematic for an experience of this type. The other downside is that Metagal is very short, taking little more than an hour to run through. With more depth and refinement, this could have been much better.
With that to the side, there’s quite a bit to like on show. The game’s levels are typically fashioned on the theme of the level’s boss; mech, fire, forest, and so forth. The variation is nice, and it ensures that repetition is held firmly at bay. I can say the same about the game’s variation of enemies. Whilst there’s not a massive amount of enemies present, there’s more than enough to keep you on your toes, many of which house unique attack and movement patterns. The boss battles, including that of the mid-level bosses, are easily the standout features here.
Each and every one of these confrontations can be pretty damn tricky to overcome. There’s never really much to lean upon as far as strategy is concerned. In fact, many of them require little more than constantly plugging them with bullets until they fall, but, that can be a lot easier said than done. Bosses tend to rush you with an onslaught of attacks more than anything else, meaning that you’ll need a keen eye and some swift reflexes to see each battle through. Once done, you’ll gain a new ability and get ready to take on the next challenging bout.
You’re free to swap between your abilities, to which there’s a few to utilize throughout; a special attack, the ability to regain health, and other marginally useful tidbits. Though in truth, you can oftentimes get by most levels with the use of your standard attack. The game’s levels will be familiar to those that favor 2D platformers. There’s painfully narrow platforms, deadly environmental hazards, heaps and heaps of traps, deviously placed enemies, and more. The game is very easy to pick up and understand, largely thanks to its mapping.
Movement can be achieved through the use of the left stick or the D-Pad, with a weapon swap tethered to LB and RB. Outside of that, you can dash with the use of the Y button, jump via the A button, and attack and special attack through the X button and B button respectively. Using this functionality, you’ll wander around the game’s levels whilst beating back the foes that sit in wait until you eventually hit the boss door. There’s a end of level grading system present too, should you want to replay any level and achieve greatness in your scoring.
When all is said and done, and something that can be said about many Mega Man-esque games, it’s a solid affair overall, one that’s sadly let down by a few issues. In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, Metagal gets a thumbs up here. Whilst there’s a lack of refinement and detail in some stages, Metagal looks pretty good and well designed for the most part. I can say the same about its audio design, being that it’s got that nice arcade-y sound to it from beginning to end, but nothing special. Bottom line? For its cheap cost, you really cant go too wrong.
Whilst Metagal doesn’t stand nearly as tall as the likes of Mega Man, there’s still quite a bit of fun to be found here. The gameplay is fluid and responsive, with just the right level of challenge in place to keep you on your toes throughout. That being said, the game’s short length and its habit of frequently handing out cheap deaths are its greatest drawbacks, which is a shame, because Metagal’s otherwise sturdy framework clearly deserved better.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.