Arcade Distillery, creators of the Kickstarter backed game Plague Road, are back with their new game, Mecho Tales, an up to four-player, 2D side-scrolling platformer set in the same universe as Mecho Wars (developed by Oyaji Games). Despite its appealing visuals, Mecho Tales is a classic indie example of style over substance, in which it attempts to hide its poor level design, repetitive nature and wafer-thin narrative behind its nostalgic gameplay which harkens back to the games of yore that we grew up loving as square-eyed whippersnappers. All in all the experience is dull, frustrating and simply not fun.
You know you’ve made it as a super villian when you have a fancy ass robe
In terms of storyline there isn’t too much to tell you. The game opens with a tall, cloaked mechanical figure called Jumali standing amongst a handful of robots which he refers to as his robot army. It is here that our unnamed hero then charges in and takes the smallest winged drone and runs away. We are then introduced to Patchie, who informs us that the robo buddy we stole contains hidden designs inside that can help him manufacture a bunch of different drones to assist us along our journey. Unfortunately he will need more materials in order to build these drones, and thus you spend the rest of the game collecting cogs for him to build various unlockable drones. The stolen drone becomes our shooting companion in our fight against all the other robots in the game. There are eight unlockable drones in total, each with a different number of cogs required for Patchie to build them. These drones vary from electric bolt shooters, flamethrowers and missile gun wielding drones of destruction. The cog collection campaign is made up of eight different worlds, each with two levels and a few bosses in-between.
Playing on the PS4 you move your character using the left stick and fire your companion drone with the right. Jumping is done via the right trigger or you can also use the X button and despite the simple control scheme, I found them quite unintuitive at times. The robot army you encounter consists of five different enemy types. One is a mechanical caterpillar that slowly crawls towards you and deals damage if you touch it. Another is a frog looking beast with a cannon on its back, which is the only enemy that seemed aware of you at extremely close range.
At those prices they’re flying out the door
I’m a rocket man
The game featured no difficulty settings, and while some of the levels were challenging, the game’s poor level and gameplay design was perhaps my biggest enemy. One of my biggest gripes was the inconsistent placement of checkpoints. Some levels featured checkpoints in the middle of the level while others had no checkpoints at all.
Gameplay-wise, the lack of a duck/crouch button meant that I was forced to run back and forth from enemies who fired explosives from their backs, which became extremely tiresome. Furthermore, the lack of cover options on some levels meant that evading some of these attacks was nigh impossible. Adding to the gameplay woes are the incredibly predictable boss fight patterns, except for the final boss which provided a bigger challenge for me than not eating Ramen for a week due to all the chaos occurring on my screen.
Cog collecting feels like a pointless attempt at challenging the player as well as making them feel invested in game’s narrative. Obviously, the more cogs you collect the more drones you can unlock and build. What makes this aspect pointless is that you don’t really need them; the most effective one was the original piece given to you. It is also very easy to obtain enough cogs early in the game to unlock all the drones, I had them all unlocked before I was halfway through the game. Which begs the question, why on earth would anyone bother taking time to collect them all? It isn’t challenging, rewarding or fun.
While the visuals are vibrant and colourful and the characters have some interesting designs, the actual levels themselves are very repetitive and lack a certain element of creativity
The level design itself is rather basic and if you’re smart you’ll figure out that you don’t have to shoot half of the enemies on some levels, while on others I was merely able to jump over them and keep running without any consequences. However, some of the more difficult levels had spike traps and disappearing platforms that caused instant death like a scene out of one of the many Saw films. One confusing aspect of the instadeath feature is the number of cogs and health packs that get dropped onto these spikes. If the player is supposed to collect these items, why would they be placed on an object that causes you restart the level, losing all your progress and items regardless of having a full health bar? I understand how having an instadeath offers a greater challenge, but it also makes the game inconsistent.
While the visuals are vibrant and colourful and the characters have some interesting designs, the actual levels themselves are very repetitive and lack a certain element of creativity. The backdrops are highly monotonous with many of the levels feeling like minimally adjusted skins of each other, I just wanted the game to surprise me at least once. Furthermore, the game’s soundtrack is made up of one song, which plays over and over again. By the end of the game I felt like Bill Murray waking up every day in Groundhog Day whenever I started a new level.
The game also has its fair share glitches and bugs too. There were several times where I got shot while climbing a ladder and I would fall and the game would freeze or I would get booted from the game with a PS4 blue screen of death welcoming me. In general the game was prone to crashing; there were plenty of times that I wanted to throw my controller in anger after I would beat a boss only for the game to crash before it auto-saved.
Wanna play a game?
Overall Mecho Tales may appeal to some gamers chasing nostalgic 2D memories, but nothing about the game made me feel any emotional ties to my character or to the story, nor did it provide any real sense of enjoyment and the only challenge here is to one’s patience. I never felt motivated to finish the game and the only positive that came from finishing the game was that I got my second Platinum Trophy.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro