I wanted to like Mecho Tales more than I ultimately did. It helplessly falls onto the proverbial scrapheap of games whose inherent problems are clear from the outset, leading to an experience that becomes forcibly compounded by the fact that you can’t look past its unavoidable frustrations.
Mecho Tales opens with an unnamed villain, that looks like a robotic bird, marvelling at the Robo Buddy combat drone that they have created, which they believe will make their armies unstoppable. In the immediate moments after, an unnamed hat-toting hero soon easily swipes it from the villain’s clutches and the evil robotic army is ordered to give chase.
Luck would have it that the Robo Buddy that your character stole contained designs for more combat drones, and so Patchie, whoever he is, asks you to collect cogs so that he can construct them – reasoning that they could be used to finally bring an end to the war. With developer Arcade Distillery pitching this as “an all-new adventure in the world of Mecho Wars,” the first hurdle that it smacks into is in failing to adequately invest you in its world. I have no idea what happened in the original turn-based strategy game, nor does Mecho Tales deliver a sufficient introduction for the player to make sense of it all.
This confusion carries across to the gameplay that has seen the developer look to combine a chaotic platformer with a twin-stick shooter, resulting in an experience that, on the whole, feels similarly misjudged. That concern hits you right from the start. The early levels are an indication as to what is to come. The stage design is uninspired and generic, the enemies plentiful and unfairly aggressive, and the checkpointing inconsistent and unclear.
The controls are easy enough to grasp at least, with the Left Stick used for movement, the Right Stick to shoot in 360 degrees and the ZR Button (or B Button) to jump – with which your character will automatically grab on to ledges that can be clambered up. That simplicity in approach means that any can easily get involved, with local multiplayer for up to four players letting you use assorted split Joy-Con, Joy-Con Grip and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller combinations to team up with your friends. Given how dull Mecho Tales can often be, the more the merrier will help you to push through it.
With the robotic enemies that you are faced with pelting you with bullets, missiles and rolling bombs, even retaliating with the Robo Buddy became an irritation. Hovering to the side of your character, it made lining up return shots far more awkward than it ever needed to be. Take enemies that were directly above me, for example, which I couldn’t hit if I fired upwards. This became problematic, as moving to adjust the trajectory would often place me in harm’s way. I soon realised why the player is given a 24-piece health bar, but even that can be whittled down quickly.
The problem is slightly alleviated as you start to unlock new combat drones at Patchie’s Shop, trading cogs that you collect from the innards of defeated robots. There are eight combat drones that you can build, that, once unlocked, can be freely swapped between (L and R Buttons) as you leap your way through levels. There’s the Swanwave that shoots orbs in a wave pattern, the Rockettoh that launches explosive rockets in an arc, the Flameburster that spews a fiery stream and the Teslar that shoots bolts of electricity that ricochet off surfaces, among others. The selection lends some differentiation, but that lack of exact precision when aiming remains to be hard to adjust to.
The art direction helps Mecho Tales to stand out, having grown to become a signature style somewhat for the developer’s output nowadays. And, it’s hard not to appreciate the soundtrack that Sean Beeson has composed, sounding haunting but quirky in a way that I could only liken to something that Danny Elfman would pen for a Tim Burton movie.
Ultimately Mecho Tales is derivative, borrowing tried and tested ideas rather than coming up with anything that ever surprises or astounds. It fails to leave a lasting impression to result in another forgettable platformer that is unable to compete with far more memorable and groundbreaking games in the genre that are available on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Arcade Distillery