November 15th, 2016 - Jason
So I just played a platformer that puts you in control of several animals, all with different abilities. That sounds a bit like something I’ve played before somewhere. Was it on the NES? No, no… The Atari Jaguar? I don’t think so. Oh right, Sega has a popular series that follows a blue hedgehog who has several animal friends with different powers. Mekazoo definitely takes hints from Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as Donkey Kong Country, and really from platformers in general twenty years ago. This game is something you would play in the 80s and 90s, but does it hold up?
We’re going to start this review off with the title screen music above, because it sets the mood for the first level so well. Hearing this song gave me a lot of emotions, all of which were positive. It’s rooted in those classic tunes you’d hear on the SNES, but with a delightfully electronic vibe. If this doesn’t do anything for you, I’m sorry.
Honestly, going into the game I didn’t expect it to play the way it did. The first level gives you control of an armadillo that speeds off through the level, going through loop de loops and rolling through enemies. It started off like a game I’ve been wanting for a long time. That level ends with a boss, who unlocks your second character: the frog. It’s important to note that each animal plays very differently. While the armadillo covers ground quickly, he’s grounded without any ramps. The frog on the other hand can swing along enemies and the morphing platforms that serve as a different form of transportation for each animal. That still doesn’t allow for much verticality though, which is where the wallaby comes in. It’s interesting because it seems like each character becomes more versed in moving up, as the panda allows for climbing, and the pelican can flat out fly.
Starting off, each character you unlock will require you to go through a level to learn the skills of that animal. Soon though, you start being able to switch between two animals. Again, you will initially not have control over who the two animals are, but soon that’ll change. And when it does, your exploration of levels will soar to new heights. And if you’re a completionist, boy does this game have a lot of appeal for you. Each level has challenges, including time attacks, kill counts, collectables, as well as staying alive. Of course doing everything will net you additional secrets, like levels. There are also unlockables for the characters, because not everyone likes the default look.
While the levels have a decent amount of diversity, and the characters certainly add depth to each one, the game is not without its faults. As the platforming is the majority of the game, it needs to be on point. Sadly, with all the different combinations of controls, even with practice, it is more cumbersome at times than it should be. I’ll admit that I’m not a platforming savant by any means. I’m not like my little brother, who managed to beat Super Meat Boy on a keyboard. But I’d like to think I can hold my own in games, and this just doesn’t feel right at times. For the frog in particular, movement in swinging is inconsistent; grabbing things with the tongue varies greatly and doesn’t make sense at times, and flat out doesn’t work at others. Without practice, levels and the hubs to get to them can be frustrating, as they will require switching between animals in an instant, and you’ll be forced to backtrack and hope you hit the correct buttons to switch forms and perform the ability you need. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but not something that will come natural to many people, especially with a combination of five characters that is continually changing.
That said, the level differentiation for each character is fun and interesting. Allowing you to choose which character you prefer and play levels in that manner opposed to forcing changes throughout is a nice touch. Of course there are parts that will require using a particular character, but it happens less than most games would require. Bosses require changes, although like the levels, they are minimal at best. The game offers checkpoints throughout levels, although I couldn’t tell you what triggers them or when they’ll appear. There is not a lives system that boots you out of a level requiring you to start over, which can be a bit disappointing for the type of game it is. Especially considering the game has time trial medal for most levels, and the clock resets to the checkpoint if you die.
This is clearly a game that was made by lovers of the genre, but it seems that they left some parts out that seem anitquated in this day and age merely because games no longer utilize them. Maybe it’s because the game would be deemed too difficult, or it’s because it tested poorly with them. Regardless, if you’re looking for a platformer with charm and character, albeit with some notable flaws at times like the recent Sonic games, chances are you’ll dig Mekazoo.
- Different Characters/Combos
- Level Exploration/Challenges
- Inconsistent Mechanics
Mekazoo was developed and published by The Good Mood Creators. The game launched on PS4, X1, and PC on November 15th, 2016 for $19.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Mekazoo, check out the official site.
Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.