By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
I got word of this through a recent Greenlight spotlight video from Jesse Cox and it initially piqued my interest, however due to some confusion over platforms I held off. That hold off is now over and I can now reliably discuss this game as well as recommend that Greenlight upvote. Megabyte Punch is a platformer with combat reminiscent of Smash Bros, however there are some neat tricks that the game has up its sleeve to mix up that formula and provide a satisfying experience with a neat amount of character personalisation and progression. Please note that this game is still in development and some or all of what I comment on here could have changed by release, if it does then I’ll try and get an updated review out.
The initial game experience is going to be the single player or local co-op adventure mode, where you follow the story set in a computer world and work through various stages to help your village. These stages vary in the same manner that is expected among platformers. I couldn’t help but get a real Sonic vibe from the experience that’s pretty cool. This variety is also key in the central gameplay mechanics too, as your character a young Megac (robot) can integrate parts from fallen enemies or found exploring in order to gain abilities or strengths. These parts are based around attachment locations; torso, left arm, right arm etc and there are very few restrictions on what parts can be used, meaning that off-the-bat a large number of combinations are available for use allowing the creation of a variety of distinct or combination builds. Certain parts will give a passive buff whilst others will open up the opportunity for special abilities.
These special abilities are tied to four slots based upon a combination of the direction stick and special ability button; which is where I can comment on my first minor gripe with the game. Maybe my mouse and keyboard seasoned hands are ill-prepared for the gamepad, but the use of the direction stick for abilities seems a little odd, especially when it’s an analogue stick. There’s a lot of movement on an analogue stick, and rightly so, however here it would seem that a d-pad may have worked better as the moves could be executed much quicker. I did temporarily attempt with the d-pad mapped over the analogue stick, however the 360 d-pad is possibly the most pathetic and uncomfortable lump of crappy design to ever grace game controls. I have however recently tried it with a spare Logitech RumblePad 2 that I had lying around, mapped to a proper d-pad the game plays great and the PS style layout of the RumblePad 2 is far superior for d-pad use. The conclusion I came to over this control experimentation is that whilst the game is functional using the 360 sticks or even the 360 d-pad, it’s much better played on a controller with a proper d-pad be it a Logitech offering or even a PS2 DS2 controller hooked up via a USB adapter (my next Amazon purchase as the DS2 is probably the best controller I’ve ever used).
Other than the control gripes, which can be alleviated with a good controller the combat is thoroughly satisfying and the variation and customisation in character and move design means that whatever build you could want to make and play is possible. This customisation also means that co-op gameplay can be enhanced through coordination of character builds to get a combination of two different but complementary builds. To take an example; my customised build is based around speed and maneuverability, to that end I have a head part offering a blink ability, shoulder wings offering short controlled flight, a hip upping my double jump to a triple, one leg offering a passive speed boost, the other leg offering a charge attack and then a blade arm that offers slice attacks and a passive attack boost arm. This DPS build means that my character will not take much of a beating but can blink, charge, fly or jump away from the enemy to dodge their attacks and as such completely changes the play style compared to a tank build. If I were to play co-op I would probably suggest that my co-op partner actually built a tank build to tank whilst my character hits and runs. The parts don’t all look the same either, they all have a different appearance which will alter as you swap them about on your Megac, creating an appearance as custom as the fighting build. In addition to the parts are colour schemes hidden around levels which allow you to change the overall colour scheme of the Megac, a really nice addition which might have been nice to have expanded upon a bit.
In addition to the local co-op is local competitive, which is where the Smash Bros comparisons really become apparent. As a disclaimer I’ve personally not played a great deal of Smash Bros, in fact I think I played it once whilst very drunk and I can’t remember too clearly, so I’m mostly working from second hand info here. What I have gathered from my brief exposure are two facets of information; Smash Bros is really good and Megabyte Punch is like Smash Bros. Megabyte Punch may lack the Nintendo character that Smash Bros has (which is mostly lost on me as a Sega, Sony, PC gamer) but it has it where it counts; the gameplay. It is possible to use the characters from your SP and/or co-op sessions allowing for the customised gameplay and builds but in a competitive setting. This leads me up to my primary gripe with the gameplay as a whole, the lack of netcode. Local multiplayer is all good and well but this is PC and local MP is not typically the way of things on PC, I’m not complaining as it’s a great thing to have, I had an astounding amount of fun playing shooter Jamestown in local co-op, however in this case I think that the ability to play online with your custom Megac would be amazing. The developer website covers this in their FAQ, stating that it is not yet decided and I would take this opportunity to implore them to do what it takes, stay in development and pre-order funding to get the netcode in there. I realise that it will be a lot of work, however I think that being on the PC as it is, the game would benefit massively from online multiplayer, especially if it could then be integrated into the Steam API (once Greenlit). This is not an absolute requirement and the game remains excellent with just local multiplayer however I feel that in order to be that unique indie brawler success it deserves when it hits the Steam front page on release, online multiplayer would help hugely.
The aesthetic of the game is described in the press kit as; ‘Chunky stylish graphics’ and I would be very much inclined to agree with that. The style feels like a very very refined variant of 90s 3D with bold and clean textures on similarly bold and clean 3D models, combined with levels which feel a great deal like those found in Sonic, the home village feels so much like the Green Hill Zone it’s enough to induce some of that Megadrive nostalgia. This is an interesting choice as it combines a modernised variant of two opposing console factions, seemingly doing enough to satisfy both. The multiplayer and combat feel Smash Bros and to some extent the visuals look like refined Gamecube whereas the level design and aesthetic feels much like a Sonic game. In all the game sports a unique look that has gone beyond the recent indie habit of diving as far back in graphics history as possible, instead focussing on taking older and established looks and then refining them. The sound is good, although perhaps could be a little busier considering the title style. The soundtrack is electronic and sounds good although I eventually moved to playing Chipzel (of Super Hexagon fame) instead however that’s entirely a subjective personal choice thing, I just find it more catchy whilst retaining the retro-esque feel of the experience.
The game is currently available for Windows, however it is built upon the Unity3D engine and the Greenlight page promises Mac and Linux ports. Hopefully by release these will be completely ready, considering Unity3Ds relatively easy porting process I should expect that they will. The system requirements are not especially demanding and there’s even an in-browser demo to try out which should give an impression as to your particular machine’s ability to run it.
The game is available to purchase for a reduced pre-order price of $7.50 (approx £5.00) from the website through the frankly fantastic Humble Store, for $11.34 (approx £7.50) from Desura or $7.54 (approx £4.99) from Gamersgate. As ever go with the Humble Store unless you want a consolidated library. The developers have promised that once on Steam, keys will be distributed to existing customers. This will only happen if the game gets Greenlit, so if you want to wait and only buy on Steam then it’s in your best interest to vote to Greenlight the game.
In short Megabyte punch is a fantastic game with an awesome style, fun combat and great customisation mechanics. The game is still in development and whilst native ports don’t exist yet they can well be expected due to the portability of Unity3D. Other vital additions are still in debate, with my personal point of emphasis being online multiplayer which could turn this game from a great indie game into a Steam front page success upon launch. Local only multiplayer would work very well for this game on console where the usage scenario is more suitable, however on PC online multiplayer seems a must. Basically, try the free in-browser demo and see what you think, if you like what you see then the development access might be the way to go and will help continue development and even if you just see the potential just throw down a vote on Greenlight.