This indie brawler wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but provides a unique robo-bashing experience.
By Alex Walker on August 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm
If you ask our esteemed editor, Tim, my housemates, or anyone else that’s had a long conversation about gaming with myself in the last few weeks, then they’ll be able to confirm just how downright annoying I’ve been when a certain indie title was mentioned.
“Hey,” I’d say. “There’s this new PC indie title coming out that’s a bit like Smash Bros.” There wasn’t much more to my description of Megabyte Punch than that, although I was happy to mention it multiple times to multiple people. It’s $@&ing Smash Bros on PC. How could I not be excited?
Well, I’ve spent the last week or so with a review copy, and it’s not really like Smash Bros. Except it is. And you should play it.
Rock’em Sock’em Robots
The player controls a megac (a robot) who lives in a village that’s powered by a sentient force called the Heartcore. The Heartcore is being pursued by two rival factions, both of which are attacking the village to harness its power. Naturally, the robotic equivalent of the Overmind would prefer to just stay in its little village, and as such it’s spawned you to defend your people from the rival factions.
Megabyte Punch was spun as a cross between Smash Bros, Mega Man and Custom Robo, but I think there’s a much deeper, Mario-like influence at play. After finishing the rudimentary tutorial and learning the very Smash Bros-like controls — you have a rechargeable shield, one attack button, a special command and a launching-type move — you spawn in your village, and head off for your first assignment.
Even though the game is on a 2D plane, your home base is actually quite large. Much like the levels you’ll traverse, there’s a lot of potential for exploration. Even just entering the levels is a little journey: you can’t enter the second level until you pick up a powered drill from the first boss, which lets you cut through the rock blocking the path. And you can’t progress to the fourth stage without fighting through the wave of psychotic megacs attacking your home town..
But I digress. Smash Bros on PC; I should explain.
As described before, you have a shield, a jump, a single attack button and a single special key. The cute part is that different special attacks can be bound to your special key, with each triggering depending on the direction you aim.
Your choice of special attacks depends entirely on the items you equip; you’ll find all the items out in the real world, while others can be purchased from your village using the bits you pick up on your travels. (You can also convert items to bits, a nice redundancy mechanism).
All characters can double-jump, although future items can increase that amount. Your first special attack is a controllable jetpack, which you can use to jump higher, launch into opponents from beneath or just dodge out of the way. The drill you recruit from the first boss is a great attack tool, and you can find projectile weapons, teleports, armour and other stat-boosting items throughout.
The control system is much more nuanced than it first appears though. While you might have to bind a directional key to each of your specials, there’s a small delay between activating a special and the special triggering. The delay is long enough that I could, for instance, activate my jetpack by pressing up and B (if you’re using a controller, which felt the most normal way to play Megabyte Punch) and then instantly redirect myself towards the ground, charging into my opponents underneath.
It gives the levels a sense of purpose as well. On the surface, it seems like endless busywork: each level has three stages that require navigating before you reach the final boss stage. These are the most directly inspired by Smash Bros: it’s a one-on-one duel on a level that has high, middle, and low platforms, hovering above an abyss that costs you a life every time you fall off.
It’s quite easy to recover if you get knocked off — I’d equipped my robot with a maximum of four jumps, as well as the drill, which offers a small amount of forward momentum, the starting jet-pack and a horizontal charge — but just like Smash Bros, the more damage you take the greater the chance of you being blown out of the stage entirely.
There’s a huge amount of knockback if you time your attacks, particularly those in mid-air, correctly. Luckly, like in Smash Bros, you have the ability to repel projectiles if you time your shield at the right point, a great counter to anyone who wanted to beat the snot out of that guy who would just spam Link’s bow in a drunken gaming session.
Wide areas of the levels, boss stages included, are destructible with the drill. Outside of the duels, the environments mostly linear though: you’ll be using the drill either because it’s necessary or because you want to find a special power-up or one of the blocks that release a healthy chunk of bits.
But even this encourages a bit of exploration, and once you start going for a wander it’s surprising just how far you can go. Each level has one entry and one exit, but there’s usually a couple of paths you can take. Occasionally they’ll cross over, but generally you’ll either travel through the sky or smash for glory down below.
There’s a few of platforming sequences, but they’re fairly easy to navigate with the help of your equippable specials. Most of the difficulty stems from limiting the damage taken from robots you encounter en-route to the boss, particularly when the game locks the area around you and forces a fight against waves of enemies (usually with one or two basic specials).
While the adventuring does border on the mundane,, each of these mini-arenas usually have some quirk of design to them, whether it be a massive height differential, a bottomless pit, mines, bounce pads that deal massive damage to any robot that comes in contact or simply nothing. It actually, in a rather intuitive way, teaches you how to better handle the duels when they come up. Each of those stages have quirks of their own, destructible areas that can be abused, and by the time you’re done with several of these mini-fights, you’re much better equipped for the major boss.
The adventure mode takes up most of your time, partly because of the checkpoint system. There’s plenty of save points throughout the levels, but if you lose all your lives you have to start from the beginning. Boss fights are different: you’ll be able to skip straight through to the end. But having to go through three levels over again after failing because one of trap is understandably frustrating.
Any upgrades your character picks up can be taken across to the Tournament mode, where you battle off against other robots on more Smash Bros-style arenas. There’s a versus mode too, the closest Megabyte Punch comes to masquerading as a carbon copy of Nintendo’s fighting franchise. And if you’re not satisfied with the variety on offer, you can use the game’s facilities to create your own level from a PNG file, which could lead to some interesting (or very bizarre) creations.
Four players can play locally via controller or keyboard. The lack of a proper online/LAN play is probably the reality of indie publishing, not having the staff or the funds to take the game further than Reptile Games would have liked.
Megabyte Punch isn’t perfect. The adventure mode often ventures into the mundane, even frustrating, when you fall moments before reaching that elusive, final door. And the lack of any brand or franchise behind the characters makes it all feel a little soulless.
But the control schemes and combat are solid. The soundtrack suits the world perfectly and the fact that the adventure mode is fleshed out to this degree is quietly impressive. And while I say the platforming is linear, it’s very similar to the kind of fun you might have playing any of the LEGO games. (Although I don’t think kids would get quite the kick from Megabyte Punch.)
As a raw fighting-cross-platform game, it’s an impressive first effort from Reptile Games. If you’re not convinced though, why not watch some of the footage (at the top of the article) for yourself at a glorious 60 frames per second? We really do spoil our readers.
- Simple but nuanced control system
- Mario-esque sense of exploration
- Making levels from a PNG file
- Plenty of variety in combat
- No online/LAN play
- Adventure mode might bore some
- Punching featureless robots is not as fun as punching Pikachu in the face (repeatedly)
You can help Megabyte Punch launch on Steam through their Greenlight campaign, and a deluxe version with custom levels, soundtracks and high-def wallpapers is also available for US$20.
This review code supplied by the developers.