Believe it or not, there’s a downside to being a hobbyist video game reviewer. “Oh, boohoo,” cries the John Q Reader, “free games are such a burden.” Well, no, free games are great. I just don’t believe in playing them for half an hour and banging out a review. Ideally I’d like to see a game through to the end and talk about it in as objective a manner as I could. Otherwise what’s the point of writing a review?
The act of writing about the game is the thing I do this for. Who needs more games stacking up on the now ethereal pile of shame? It’s not like it’s sat there glaring at me from the shelves like it used to. It’s so easy to ignore the *looks at Xbox library* hundreds of games I haven’t played!? What the hell?!?! I daren’t look at the tally on my Steam library…
So yeah, the act of reviewing games is the fun part for me. And reviewing games is easy if the game is absolutely incredible or absolutely diabolical. Praising something to the rafters is as easy as putting the boot into an absolute mess of a game. The downside to reviewing games as a hobby lies with games that are ‘fine’. This is usually because the potential is clear to see, but something holds it back from what it could so easily be and as such it sometimes feels like you could be playing something you can get some value out of instead.
Take Megabyte Punch, for example. Megabyte Punch is fine. Frustrating, but fine. But it could so easily be awesome.
Originally released on PC in 2013, Megabyte Punch is a colourful platform brawler not without charm or standout features. You play a Megac, a robot fighter on a quest to become the strongest there is! To do this you have to defeat 6 bosses in singular combat after traversing their levels. Throughout these levels you defeat other Megac and plunder their bodies for their components to customise yourself.
Each section of your body is a slot to be modified. Some parts raise your defense or attack damage. Some give you a completely new ability, like a third jump, the ability to drill through destructible scenery or an energy projectile. There are also secret parts to collect, and colours to customise your Megac with.
This is ENTIRELY my jam. Customisable bots you can make pretty? Yes, please!
The game itself plays like a cross of Megaman, Cyborg Justice and Super Smash Bros. You have no health, you have a percentage of damage. The more damage you take, the further and faster you can be belted across the screen. Fall off the screen or hit a wall too hard and you lose a life. The enemies are the same, the more you punch them in the diodes, the further they’ll eventually fly and explode, shedding their body parts like a techno pinata (which is now the name of my gabba screamo band).
The boss battles turn up the Smash Bros elements to 11. An arena where it’s 1v1, the boss also has lives and a percentage counter. The object being to kick his metal arse into oblivion before he manages to do the same to you.
So far this is all adding up to be a cracking little game. It’s bright, it’s a bit daft, it’s got some depth, it all sounds fantastic. And it would be, were the controls not rubbish.
This is the second game in a row that’s made me gnash my teeth and shout at the bloody television. I guess the saving grace is that I’m not fighting with them nearly as much as I did with ‘Ministry of Broadcast’, but once again they’re preventing a game from being so much more than it actually is.
The first thing I had to do was completely rewire decades of muscle memory. There are buttons for Special Ability, Jump, Attack, Shield, Shield Break and Inventory. All these buttons are mapped permanently to the wrong buttons.
And yes, I get that I should persevere with the control method and learn to play it, or “git gud” as some mouth-breathing dipshit will have me do, but the fact is it’s all wrong in my brain. The Special Ability (B) is on the Jump button, Attack (A) is on the Special Ability Button, Jump (X) is what I would have prescribed the Inventory button had it not made more sense to put it on the + or – button and Menu (Y) is on the Attack button.
I’m 40 years old. Relearning all this ain’t as easy as it used to be. At the very least, putting all personal grievances about my ability to relearn a control method, this game is 7 years old. There’s absolutely no excuse for not putting a fully customisable control layout in the game for a console port. None. I don’t give a gnats testicle what the reasoning is. A customisable control method could have killed the developers Nan and that still wouldn’t be a reasonable excuse.
Ok, we’re getting silly now. But I stand by my opinion. The control method sucks.
The second problem with the controls is that they require precision and timing that is also wandering into the realms of being counter intuitive. And this could be readily fixed with some very, very slight changes to the timing windows.
For example, you tap A without any input from the control stick and you do a standing combo. However, if you’re moving left or right and you tap A you’ll do a lunging punch which knocks the enemy away from you. This is great for slapping them into a wall or off a precipice but absolute balls out frustration if you’re trying to start a combo because it’s very easy to hold onto the stick for a millisecond too long and do the lunging punch rather than the combo. The window of transition is tiny and unforgiving.
The abilities are assigned to a direction on the stick which is combined with the Ability button to perform. This also has the same curious window timing as movement attack to standing attack. Say you assign Drill to up on the stick. You can do a horizontal drill attack but you have to tap up on the stick and press ability. Hold up too long and you’ll do an upwards drill attack. The combat in Megabyte Punch is frenetic and very, very enjoyable but it all shatters to pieces if you get in a flap and end up mangling the buttons. Fighting the muscle memory and remembering the tiny input windows leads to some fairly catastrophic pasting from the mobs.
It’s arguable what you could do about the ability input. Personally I’d have taken to assigning an ability to a button as an alternative, but of course that brings along it’s on set of challenges with learning how to play and could be excessive and unwieldy, more so than the game already is.
It’s a damn shame I had to fight the controls as much as I did. There’s a game that’s very good underneath that crust of clunkiness. When you’re juggling enemies off the wall and smashing them into the ceiling it’s bloody glorious, and the customisation of the parts means there’s scope for a variety of play styles. It’s not exactly Platinum levels of combat but it’s no button masher by any means.
However, as of time of publication this review is pretty irrelevant. You currently cannot buy this game in Europe or Australia due to some rating kerfuffle. So if and when it does come back up, or if you live anywhere else, know that Megabyte Punch has charm and an enjoyable core which is sadly let down by frustrating controls. Especially if you’re a cack handed, middle aged chimp like I am.