I don’t mind admitting I’ve played so many platform games over the years that very little surprises me. They’re usually a mixture of Sonic, Mario and any other big name platform from yesteryear, so I’m used to breezing through the early stages ready to declare it’s a poor mans Mario.
Roll on the neon blue, cybernetic styled Armadillo that you start off with in Mekazoo, and my initial thought was Sonic. However I suddenly went quiet, very quiet, and while live streaming my first game, I declared in a very shocked state, “Actually, this is good, very good”.
Working through the first level, the graphics where above average for a $19.99 title, and as the Armadillo zoomed around the screen, there was no noticeable slow-down either. Everything moved along at a blistering pace which managed to remain balanced and simple to control, thanks to the game taking control of certain actions as it flicks between 2D and 3D.
Battling through small tunnels, spinning around loops and bashing into small nameless enemies was all pretty simple, but mostly incredibly fun. There’s little back story, but when you come across a giant frog or toad, it’s pretty clear you need to take him down, and in true retro-platformer style it’s safe to assume you’ll need to hit him three times as he attacks with a slightly different technique after each hit. When it’s finally finished, there’s a strange glow left behind as you gain your very own mekafrog for future use.
The next area sees you control your new mekafrog friend, and with a small leap you can flick out his tongue to swing from nearby points. Venturing forward through this next area and working through, you’ll soon move on to unlock your very own Panda, Kangaroo (or Wallaby) and Bird. Each have a very unique style which means the obstacles ahead vary just as much; from points to swing, tunnels to spin down, caverns to swim through, or leaps to make.
It’s soon after this point that things start to get very interesting. As you continue to play, you’ll find you can approach a level with two of your meka-friends, and each can be utilised to attack the obstacles ahead. Which two animals you use will greatly effect the challenge ahead, and it’s worth remembering your options as you survey the levels, and decide on which route you want to take.
There’s plenty of situations where you’ll find one animal just isn’t sufficient, while another will pass that point with ease, but then struggle in other areas. Learning each of the 5 animals, and various ways to tackle the task at hand will help you ten-fold as you progress, and the fun factor remains consistent even on some of the slightly more challenging areas.
With forest, ice, desert and various other familiar themes, you’ll no doubt recognise the background isn’t the only reference to platformers of yesteryear. Mekazoo isn’t trying to repeat or replace your favorite platformer of the 90’s era of 2D platform titles, but it is trying to give a nod of respect to the entire era.
Graphically there’s a sharp and colourful continuation throughout the entirety of the game. Backgrounds are lush and detailed, and time and time again I found myself impressed with the simple, colourful, yet very impressive presentation throughout.
Best of all, when praising the graphical aspect of a game, I’m so used to then criticising the sound, but Mekazoo again surprised me. The funky background music plays throughout and not once did I find myself wanting to turn it off. Getting engrossed and nodding my head to the music was only ever annoying when it caused me to miss a jump, or hit one enemy too many. Death is never a major problem, as checkpoints are pretty fair, and often the trial and error effect is the best way to learn what animal to approach the section with.
The Pelican’s infinite flight might be a bonus, the Wallaby’s an interesting fellow, and using the Panda to climb and ram in incredibly useful. Whichever duo you choose, there’s nearly always a route, but just remember: as much as you may have preferred Mario over Donkey Kong, it might be techniques familiar from the Rayman series, or the Sonic-like Armadillo that prove the most effective.
Time and time again, there’s little doubt you’ll be impressed, and I found myself reminiscing about how great the platform genre once was, because Mekazoo is a real treat that brings it all back to you, the only downfall is that we don’t get more platformers of this quality.
The final thing to look at has to be the value of the title, and for many, the regular dose of nostalgia will be more than enough; but with around 8-10 hours of gameplay ahead, it’s not a short title, and I’ve played many, many games that cost twice the price and don’t provide half the content, or fun of Mekazoo. You can’t say it’s perfect, some sections do feel a little too similar to others, some make your decisions over simple, and many will require more than their fair share of trial and error.
Finally, the worst news of all has to be that Mekazoo is currently only available in the U.S store, so our U.K readers will have to hope the developers bring it to our shores sooner rather than later.