Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mekorama (NSW) Review

SPC's next review is a smaller scale game. It's yet another mobile game turned Nintendo Switch release in the form of Mekorama. SPC previously reviewed the mobile version in 2016. How does the Switch version compare? Let's check it out with this review of Mekorama for the Nintendo Switch.

Wrap your head around the miniature world of Mekorama

Mekorama originally released as a mobile game in 2016, akin to games like Monument Valley, and probably more familiar to Nintendo gamers, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It's a 3D puzzle/platformer that sees you controlling a robot named B, navigating it through myriad 3D diorama-like levels with the objective of reaching the goal, indicated as a red, glowing portal on top of a brown block.

The Nintendo Switch version of Mekorama may not be free like its mobile counterpart (but the latter is a great way to "demo" the Switch version, if you'd like), but it does include approximately double the amount of levels as the original. The downside is that the game's level creator, which allowed mobile players to share levels via QR codes, does not currently offer sharing functionality in the Switch version, which sort of defeats the point of having the feature on Switch.

The actual game levels are split up into four categories: Easy, Medium, Tricky, and Hard, and they start out simple enough, introducing the player to basic concepts and allowing them to grow accustomed to the controls. Levels themselves offer a nice difficulty curve that start off with the simple requirement of traversing the environment to reach the goal. Slowly and gradually new elements are implemented to keep things fresh, such as blocks that can rise and lower based on player input--used smartly in a double-decker maze level that features an upper part and a submerged lower part--and even enemies and hazards that if B comes one space near them, he'll get electrocuted and the level will be failed. I found the Easy levels to be a good deal of fun, but even early on in the Medium stretch of levels, I found some truly brain-busting puzzles. Thankfully, there is a hint system implemented in the game for when you get stuck.

Mekorama can be played via touch screen or via analog input, though the latter is a bit cumbersome. You have to drag the cursor around the screen manually with the analog stick, and when you want to spin the camera around, you have to hold down a button while moving the analog stick in a "swipe" motion. Not exactly the most intuitive means of input, is it. Otherwise, with the recommend touch screen controls, you're tapping on squares where you want the robot to move, if a maneuver can be made, and sliding your finger on the Switch's screen to spin the map around to get a better view.

Unfortunately, even with the ability to spin the level around in a 360 degree fashion, you can't move the camera angle itself. This results in plenty of levels where you B easily becomes obstructed by the environment, requiring a lot of trial and error to move around obscured parts of levels. Adding on top of that, many levels have it where B can get knocked from a platform and fall to the ground, making the level impossible to complete. This isn't so much of a problem as it is that the game forces you to manually restart the level instead of automatically doing so. It's a design element that slows down the experience considerably when most of the time I just wanted to immediately retry the level without being forced to pause and then hit restart.

Mekorama doesn't have the same level of polish or as vivid a presentation as other games of its ilk. You won't be dazzled by its visuals or understated music, as the presentation is overall pretty sterile. What you will be with Mekorama is engaged with its ultimately well designed levels, be they focused on puzzles, platforming, precision, or a combination of the three. Mekorama is hardly a game that will make a lasting impression, but it's one that's a nice time-waster for the experience that it does deliver.

[SPC Says: C+]

A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.

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