Mekazoo is fun, I want to start off saying that, but there are some problems with the game itself. It shows itself off as a continuation to the 90's platformers of old, think Crash Bandicoot meets Sonic, and at times it's just as good. It has a great art direction that really screams at you the entire time and makes you want to completely immerse yourself in this world. From a mechanical frog, armadillo or even Kangaroo, Mekazoo continuously finds new ways to impress you. The amount of variety here is staggering, but not everything is treated with the same level of care and love. Some levels fall a little flat, some creatures are excruciatingly painful to maneuver, and a lack of any type of tutorial really hurts this game as a whole package.
It's nice to know that someone out there wants to create these old style games still. I love platforming games, and aside from the occasional Mario title, we really don't see them as much. Gone are the days of Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, or even a decent Sonic title. So I'm glad to see this game release, I just wish there was that extra layer of polish. So be prepared to jump into a world full of fast paced platforming, precise and unpredictable movements, this is Mekazoo!
Mekazoo is a platformer at heart, no doubt about it. From the beginning moments when you start off as a cute and mechanical Armadillo, you know you are in for a treat. You will start off speeding up in a ball form and running through levels at lightning fast speeds, and it feels great, for a little while. The game has puzzles built into the world itself. Each level has these types of cylinders in the background that changes depending on what creature you currently are. If you are the armadillo they will become types of cannons, the frog, little handles for you to swing on, kangaroo, a type of bounce pad. No matter what creature you play as, the game gives you options, but that's where the problem becomes. There are 5 different creatures you unlock as you play and this means that there is an automatic balancing issue.
In the first level everything feels like it is designed for the Armadillo, nothing feels out of place, it is perfect platforming through and through. The second level, after you unlock the frog, introduces you to the frogs mechanics, and plays perfectly. Once you start having to switch between the two different animals though things start to become wonky. The problem is that suddenly the levels don't start to mesh very well. The beginning may be fast paced and you feel like you are going really fast and making progress quickly, but suddenly you have to stop, change creatures, and try to figure out a new puzzle. It just feels like the game gets in its own way here. You are encourage to speed through levels, but then stopped because enemy placement is too far apart, so you have to change out and slow your momentum.
The other biggest issue here is lack of tutorials. This is weird for me to say because I personally hate tutorials, but I was really finding myself wanting one. With no tutorials I never understood how the creatures abilities really worked. If I held square did I actually charge up and go faster, or did I have to click it multiple times like in Sonic and then my character would become fast? This is never answered, you have to figure it out on your own. This would be okay, if the game was forgiving though, and it really isn't, it's tough as nails at some points. You have to understand ever aspect of every transformation perfectly to get through some points, and this would be okay, if I felt I had some more control of the characters themselves. The armadillo is hard to point in a certain direction whenever you want, so when you charge up your roll it is very likely you will fall straight into a hole because the camera is too far away for you to see what direction you are going.
This is made worse when very particular timing is introduced. The kangaroo was the bane of my existence in this game, the level of precision to use this transformation is just absolutely ridiculous. You have to not only hit the X button once to jump up, but then to wall jump you have to hit the button each time, the problem is that the developers make it for when the feet hit the wall, not when the character model hits. This may sound like a stupid complaint, but once you actually start to do longer wall jumps, about 10-15 in a row, you suddenly realize that you can no longer see your character in the level. So that means that you have to get a timing down that you can't see, when it's all based on sight. Throw in some wonky platforming in the mix and you suddenly start to feel really irritated with the game. This is worsened with the floaty feel at times, I never really felt like I had full control of the creatures at any given times. I would have liked some more direct control of my movements.
The positive though is that it is really fun when it works, it's just unfortunate that it doesn't work all the time. It is fast paced and feels like the Sonic game that I never got, but it has some wonky portions and some transformations that I dreaded using that really made this game a pain at moments. Each creature does feel unique and as a result gameplay can be fun, I loved the panda and the bird, but that kangaroo, ohh boy did I really want to get my Australian cap on and go hunt some roo's after some of the more difficult parts of the game.
There's no real story going on in Mekazoo however there is a sort of narrative going through with this game and it all feels very Wiley and Dr. Light here. You never see any main bad guy or good guy, but you could liken it to Megaman and I think you would be spot on. You are a robot that escapes this facility. As you escape you start to take down some of the bad robots. When you get far enough you get into a fight with that certain regions leader. When you defeat them you gain their power, or transformation. It all works and I'm sure that if you wanted to create a story here you really could. That is not to say that there isn't one there right now, but the developers sure did not put it front and center. This is okay though because I think the environmental storytelling does enough here.
Every area feels unique. From frozen tundra's with facilities hidden deep within, to the swamps that are ridden with bug type monsters, every area seems to tell a type of story. There is red trees that will kill you if you touch them, maybe there was a kind of war or even an infection that started to hurt the animals so they all became sentient robotic creatures instead. Who knows? The point is that there is definitely something there to be worked on, and I enjoyed it, even if it isn't explicitly spelled out for you.
The thing that drew me to this game though was honestly its art style. This game is just absolutely breathtaking at times. Every area looks unique and really has depth to it. When I saw it was made in Unity I was honestly shocked, because it just looks so freaking great. Every are seems to have real depth to it. Whether it be pipes leading back into areas that I couldn't see, or rows and rows of tree in the background. This world felt alive and never really started to feel dull. This goes to character design as well. Every robot and monster really does feel unique. The armadillo that you start off as has a sort of characterization that comes through without it ever having to say a word, and that's a hard feat to pull off in a platformer.
These designs just feel so unique. The cool thing too is that you actually collect gems and kill certain amount of creatures as you play through the game. As you do you unlock more skins for each transformation and even different glows for the outside of them as well, some are whimsical, and some are just cool. This really helps bring the entire idea to life. This also lives in the soundtrack as well. This soundtrack is a mixture of synth and 90's upbeat sounds that really just made me want to speed run the entire level. It never gets quite as upbeat as the Sonic games or even Donkey Kong Country, but all the same it has that great feel to it. I really did enjoy what they could do with this world with music, and listening to the soundtrack was a great invitation to try a certain portion of a level again, even if I was getting frustrated.
The bad here though is that the game does stutter, and quite literally. There would be times when I would jump into a cannon, very similar to Donkey Kong Country, and the game would just freeze for a minute. Everything in the background would still be moving, but my character would be stuck and I couldn't do anything. These moments really kill some of the fun aspects of the game. The game encourages you to speed run these levels and wants you to get faster, but this quickly becomes a problem if the game freezes and prevents me from doing any better. In some of the more action intense portions too the frames per second drops way below thirty and really does put a hamper on what would otherwise be a very great experience. I think some more time and polish would have really done some wonders on this otherwise great game.
Mekazoo is fun, there is no denying that. It is definitely flawed, but we don't get many 90's inspired platformers out there like this game. I really wanted to get into it just a little bit more, but when some of the more precise platforming started to rear its head I realized that this game has just a few problems that keeps it from making me want to play more. The controls can be bad at times and the precise platforming doesn't fit with the sometimes loose controls. If I can't time my jumps correctly or even see which way I'm facing as an animal, there are some problems. The lack of a tutorial is also mind baffling because you are never introduced to just how to correctly operate some of these creatures. Overall it is a very solid title that just needs a little more love and care, because I'll be honest, Developers, you definitely need to make more like this, just take some time to perfect the little things.
|+ Gameplay is fast like other 90's platformers||– Platforming can be slow and irritating at times|
|+ Each transformation/creature is unique||– THAT DAMNED KANGAROO!!!!|
|+ Soundtrack||– Some graphical hiccups and frame-per-second issues|
|+ Genuinely fun at times||– Controls can be spotty and floaty|
|+ Presentation is just astounding and brings you into the experience|