A tight puzzler with some loose screws
Released about a week ago, Mekabolt caught my eye on the Nintendo Switch eShop because:
- I can’t resist 2D platformers.
- The clean and bright GBA-era pixels got me square (ha!) in the feels.
- The $4.99 price point was right in my comfort zone
(disclosure: I used my e-shop coins to pay for it. Only cost me $0.27 actual money.)
It’s important to note that this is a first for a single indie-dev, and while not terribly ambitious, is a solid entry for a title that even the dev describes as a “tiny game”.
Mekabolt is fundamentally a puzzle-platformer
Mekabolt is similar in flow to the Klonoa games, Lost Vikings, and Toki Tori. In execution, however, it’s closer to such titles as N+, and Super Meat Boy. You’ll be right at home here if you like a punishing challenge with ever-evolving obstacles. Although I will note that the difficulty is somewhat artificial. The physics and controls are stiff and can lead to a lot of cheap deaths. Add to that the fact that all hazards are insta-kill and it can get frustrating in short order. In fairness, puzzle games benefit from tight, consistent controls, so it’s a necessary evil.
Starting with a slightly drab, minimalist title screen, there’s only three options: start game, music, and sfx on/off toggles. After a few panels explaining the basic plot, it’s off to the world map (and the best music in the game). There are 4 worlds, each with 24 stages laid out in a simple grid. That’s 96 stages total, but it only took me about 90 minutes to beat, and there aren’t any secrets or secondary objectives to complete.
Audio is usually a weak point for indies, and this one is no exception. Sound effect volumes are inconsistent, and usually jarringly loud, while the music is forgettable, Mario Party style pop. There’s a couple tracks that are more Sonic the Hedgehog style; fun and almost danceable.
Personally, the vivid sprites look best in handheld mode. Developer Somepx produces some great pixel-art assets for Patreon primarily, and it shows in the plain but super sharp graphics.
Equally great are the game’s clever puzzles. New Mekabot enemies and hazards are introduced at a rate that’s just right for the length of the journey. While the challenge presented by each stage can vary, the overall ramp never feels too off. Every stage is a bite-sized test of logic and quick thinking. None of them will have you searching for a walkthrough, but they can take you a minute to plot out the best path. I cannot stress enough how much of an accomplishment it is for such a small game to have such good flow. The majority of Mario Maker levels are proof of this fact.
For some, this game will seem like a missed opportunity. I know my dev-brain thought, ya know, with more tuning and a few more features, this could be a “real game”. That wouldn’t be fair though; It is a real game. Tiny games are valid too.
Overall, for a mere $5, Mekabolt is fun, if short.
Despite having got it for even less, I would gladly pay full price for it. Even with almost no replay value, I’ve already found myself replaying it from the start. The game’s puzzles strike that perfect balance of engaging and low impact that creates a sort of flow-state. Great for passing time while keeping your brain active.
Available on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.
8/10 for the money, 7/10 overall.
See you next mission!
Matthew Summers @pfdxyz
Matthew does entirely too much (srsly, don’t be this guy). Runs an award-winning craft beer store and is launching a BYOB nerd shop called Game Knight. Pixel-artist, photographer, musician, 3d printer, Twitch streamer, aspiring indie game-dev, and lover of commas. Also incredibly humble. More so than most people.