Review: Megabyte Punch
I came at Reptile’s “Megabyte Punch” with just about no information about it. A quick Google search before I installed it told me that it was a platform fighter with customizable robots. Alright, I can get behind that!
In Megabyte Punch, you play as a Megac, a digital creation of the Heartcore. The Heartcore and your robot buddies all live in a nice, peaceful little village called Ventu. However, your path is not a peaceful one, as you were created to defend the village from “two external forces” that want to steal the Heartcore’s power and use it for their own benefit. The story isn’t gonna put you on the edge of your seat, but the writing and dialogue is solid and it gives the game the direction it needs.
Setting the game up, you’ll see that the graphical options are pretty limited and simple. Resolution, v-sync, and up to 8x anti-aliasing (which takes away all the jaggies). The game has a very simplistic, clean style with 3D cell shaded graphics, so the limited options work fine. Animations are buttery smooth, and the minimalist graphics are never in your face distracting you in a platform fighter that requires your focus and attention. The lack of detailed lighting, dust, fog, and other notable particle effects can make things look a bit dull in ways, as most if not all of the game’s effects are made up of cell shaded objects, whether they be explosions, slashes, impacts, etc., but the game seems to be very well optimized and does a great job with what it’s going for as far as graphics go. The game also fully supports controllers (up to four, for local play), and playing with my Xbox 360 Controller for Windows during the review was great for an indie game still in beta.
There are a few different game modes that you’re given to choose from immediately. Adventure mode is where the bulk of the game is, as you progress through the story and unlock new parts. There are also versus and tournament modes, the former being a simple multiplayer battle mode to be played locally with friends, and the latter being a single player mode where you fight through eight one on one battles (if you can survive) and are awarded with a part if you succeed. Sadly, there’s no online co-op to speak of, and when questioned if it would be added, Reptile’s (the developer’s) response was “Don’t place your bets on it, at least not with the release.” Since the game’s final release is very close at the time of this review, odds are that we won’t see online play soon. Here’s hoping that they’ll add it somewhere down the road, though!
Starting up adventure mode (which also supports 2-4 player co-op!), you’re shown a little intro before being thrown into a tutorial area, where you’ll be taught how to maneuver, attack, block, and even do pelvic thrusts (which serve the purpose of breaking your opponent’s block)! The controls are very, very hard to find fault in. Movement is refreshingly crisp and clean, wall jumps are easily executed, and combat comes naturally as you grow used to the mechanics of movement. With the tutorial under your belt, you’re let loose to explore Ventu, talk to fellow villagers, search for hidden bits (used as currency and to gain extra lives) and treasures, all of that good stuff.
Two noteworthy locations in town are the parts shop, and your house. The shop is self-explanatory, but there’s a bit more to check out in your house. Inside you’ll find three colored pods that are fairly important. The first (starting from the left) is your parts bank. Every time you pick up a part and finish a stage with it sitting in your inventory, it’ll be added to your parts bank. You’re a virtual entity, so your parts bank is like a hard drive that all your collected parts are downloaded to, always on hand to mix and match later on. The second pod has the simple purpose of letting you change the color scheme of your Megac. As you make your way through the game, you’ll come across capsules (usually somewhat hidden) that will add new color schemes to choose from. This kind of customization really adds a lot to the game, and fuels you to push on, collecting new parts to experiment with and colors to discover. The last pod allows you to save your current parts/color setup so you can quickly switch between builds or revert back to ones you like.
Moving deeper into the actual gameplay, levels are made up of large maps scattered with weaker enemies, chests containing bits and parts, ambush points where you’ll be closed in and forced to fight certain enemies before moving on, among other things. You’re given pretty free reign once you’re in a stage, as there are usually multiple routes to the finish, largely destructible terrain, and lots of secrets hidden all around. With all the freedom you’re given, and the crisp, tight controls, the game really shines in these areas. As you muck about, exploring the map, taking down enemies, grabbing dropped parts and slapping them on your creation, it’s easy for time to fly as you go through the stages. The music fits the game very well in these areas, too, hitting a nice mix between a dreamy digital feel, and enough of an up tempo chiptune vibe to perfectly match the theme of the game.
At the beginning of the review I mentioned how I came into this game with pretty much no prior knowledge of it. Getting to the combat system of Megabyte Punch is why I brought that up. Running across my first few enemies (besides a couple in the tutorial), I smacked them around a bit until they went flying into a wall or the ceiling and exploded, dropping bits or parts. It wasn’t until I fought some slightly tougher enemies, though, taking some damage myself, that it dawned on me. The combat system is just like Super Smash Bros.!
It wasn’t until I fought some slightly tougher enemies, though, taking some damage myself, that it dawned on me. The combat system is just like Super Smash Bros.!
The more you get hit, the higher your damage level goes, and the higher your damage level goes, the harder enemies’ attacks hit. Get hit hard enough, and you’re gonna fly further and faster. Hit a wall too hard, and boom, you get blown to bits just like your enemies. This system gives you a lot of room for error, where taking a handful of hits from an enemy isn’t going to bring your progress to a halt. At the same time, though, the levels can be rather lengthy, so when you’re running around with 150+ damage, even the lightest taps might send you flying. Collecting bits grants you extra lives as you make your way through the stages, though, so it’s smart to search out chests and snatch up every bit you can get your hands on if you don’t want to run too low on lives.
You always have basic attacks at your disposal, which are four-directional and can be executed while on the ground or while you’re airborne. Combos are very effective once you get the hang of things, juggling your opponents, slamming them into the ground, and generally doing whatever fits the situation. Besides your basic attacks, many parts will give you offensive, defensive, and other various abilities. If you’re familiar with Super Smash Bros., special attacks were executed by pressing the specified button either standing in place (without directional input), or combined with up, down, or left/right. The same goes for Megabyte Punch, as you manually equip your currently equipped parts’ abilities in your four ability slots (no direction, up, down, and left/right).
The parts and ability system is hands down the coolest and funnest feature of this game. You’re able to create a customized fighter with exactly what abilities you want, mapped to exactly what buttons you want. In addition to parts that add abilities, you’ll also find many that add other perks (like an extra air jump) or stat boosters (higher damage attacks, defense, speed, etc.). Since you equip parts to your head, chest, back, left arm, right arm, hips, left leg, and right leg, you have a LOT of room for experimentation and carefully crafted Megac designs. The possibilities aren’t endless, but the amount of user choice is awesome, and really gives you the ability to tune your personal creation along your own strengths and preferences.
Once you’re done tromping through the stages, and have found a setup that you’re comfortable with, you’ll find yourself in a battle with the area boss. This is where the game takes heavy influence from Super Smash Bros., putting you on a fairly small, floating battleground, facing the boss in one-on-one combat. You won’t die by smashing into walls here, with the same going for your opponent, instead you’ve got to knock their damage levels up nice and high before smashing them into the sky or off the map. This is definitely when your bit collecting will pay off, since both you and your opponent will have a set amount of lives! Once you’ve beaten the boss ’til he’s black and blue (if that’s possible with digital robots), you’ll be given a rare part and be put back in town to continue the story, play with new builds (with all the parts you picked up throughout the level), check out the shop (that restocks every so often), etc.
So with all the praise, what are the game’s weak points?
You have to remember this is an indie project, and is still in beta, so my biggest, clear complaint would be that the game just isn’t as fleshed out as it could be. As cool as the part system is, and as varied as the parts are, there are a lot of parts that look too similar, and even more that have the exact same effects. Sometimes this is nice, if you’re attached to a certain ability, but wanna’ play with different visuals on your Megac, other times it can get annoying. I went through the first level and had tons of fun finding new parts with new abilities, yet through the entire second level I found only two parts that actually gave new combat abilities. There are 150 different parts in the game, which sounds very impressive until you realize that there might be 5 or more pairs of legs that give +10% movement speed, 5 or more arms that give +1 attack power, etc. Still, the customization is deep and is clearly the game’s best point, so this is really only half a complaint.
Another small complaint lies in one-on-one combat. While the AI in the game generally isn’t the wisest (for example, enemies walking into damaging heat pits to get to you, instead of simply jumping over them), the one-on-one boss battles can come with sudden difficulty spikes that can catch you off-guard. While the challenge is welcome, some abilities can be needlessly difficult to hit with when you’re taking on a highly mobile, intelligent opponent. Early on in the game, a lot of abilities feel quite weak, and while they still have uses, you may find more success in using mostly basic attacks on early bosses. That spin-kick that hits hard may be cool, and that uppercut that sends them flying may come in handy, but when a boss is flipping around, spamming quick attacks and staying mobile at almost all times, ability use against them sometimes ends up being more trouble than it’s worth. Because of this, you might find yourself falling back on mostly basic attacks to keep your foe’s damage up. Sadly, a fair bit of ability usage in one-on-one combat just doesn’t feel as polished as it does in a game like Super Smash Bros.
All in all, however, this game hits a sweet spot in the indie game industry. Just about everyone has played and had fun with a Super Smash Bros. game at some point in time, and the added customization and quirky digital setting of Megabyte Punch makes for a unique, engaging experience that accomplishes the most important goal a game can achieve… It’s FUN! Years down the road, I can still see myself firing this little gem up and playing with some friends (great fun if you hook your PC up to the TV for some couch play), smacking some little robots around a bit.
Reptile also seems like a really cool little developer that listens to player input and makes sure to keep them up to date on the game’s progress. At $15, Megabyte Punch isn’t too pricey, and with frequent updates, the game is only getting bigger and better. If you’ve got a Super Smash Bros. itch that needs scratching on the PC, or if you’re interested in a highly customizable platform fighter with a quirky setting and story, clean graphics, a catchy little soundtrack, and tight controls, give Megabyte Punch a try!
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety
- A nice, soothing yet still upbeat soundtrack lends a nice relaxing feel to what can be a hectic game.
- Exploration is rewarding and can be taken at your own pace, as you can replay past stages any time.
- Customization allows you to build a Megac that best suits your preferences and personal skill level.
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety
- Combat (especially against bosses) can be quite hectic, fast paced, and relatively difficult.
- No online play means you’ll be playing by your lonesome unless you have people to play with locally and have multiple controllers to use on your PC
This review was based on the PC version that was provided by the developer.
August 6th, 2013
Tight, Super Smash Bros. style combat, high level of customization that changes both appearance and gameplay, lots of nooks and crannies to explore, loot to collect, great for local multiplayer, family friendly, fun for all ages
Part selection can feel limited and repetitive, some ability use in boss battles can be needlessly difficult/not worth the effort