Metagal wears inspiration on a sleeve, rightly or wrongly. It’s not a long jump to say that this cutesy, retro-inspired platformer takes cues from Mega Man. A cynical player might feel that this is a pointless exercise in imitation, but so few games nowadays come bursting with originality or fresh ideas. And surely there’s nothing wrong with producing an ode to the familiar and well-loved if you do it with respect and talent. A glance at the name of the developer – RetroRevolution – is all it takes to see that everything within Metagal is done with passion for games at the core, rather than a shameless cash-in on history and nostalgia.
Having said all of that, the story inside of this platformer is a bit too ‘on the nose’. It’s something we’ve seen a million times before and with better dialogue, too. We play as Meta, a cyborg girl whose creator, Dr Ray has been kidnapped by General Creeper. If this wasn’t enough, Creeper has turned Meta’s cyborg sisters against her, setting up the eight stages to play through. The similarities here are abundant and the scripting along with obvious humor does nothing to really raise the game above any kind of narrative bar.
Thankfully, the actual game that lies beneath the retro pixel styling is tight, responsive and rewarding. As with Mega Man, we’re given a choice of stages which can be played in any order, though there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for playing them tactically, aside from new weapons which help within other areas. Though it’s nice to dip out of a tricky level in favor for something else to break up the challenge.
Meta is kitted out with a gun, very flexible movement and some special weapons which help in a pinch. Very rarely will you find yourself dying because of the game, rather this will happen because you’ve not taken care when traversing or you’ve been cocky with a boss fight. Each area is wonderfully designed following tropes set in stone from years of platformers. So, you’ll find factories, futuristic environments, and biomes based around the usual elements. It’s not pushing a bar, but Metagal doesn’t need to because the basic gameplay is a challenge and a joy.
A lovely touch is the cog system. Throughout levels you’ll find golden cogs which can be used to replenish health at the press of a button. However, these cogs are also used as a checkpoint system, offering players a chance to start from where they die, rather than at the beginning of the stage. Of course, these are limited, and you’ll have to explore to find them, but it urges you to take the game at a slower pace to see more of the worlds, rewarding you with a lifeline or two.
This is a welcome bonus because while the journey to the bosses can be tricky, it’s when you reach them you’ll truly be tested. Each of Meta’s sisters proves a challenge and can be a mixture of set moves with some occasional RNG thrown in. Deaths here often come with a wry smile of knowing where you went wrong, rather than a huff of frustration at poor design or boss gatekeeping. Eventual success comes with relief and pride.
I’m not usually one to comment on the pricing of a game when reviewing, but considering the quality here, plus the raft of unlockable characters, weapons, and collectibles, Metagal is a steal at £4.99. There’s so much to do from besting the game to improving your performance within each level and achieving higher grades. No, it’s not original and the writing is a bit rubbish, but I can’t fault the game itself.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Ratalaika Games