The metroidvania concept has been done many times over, but that hasn’t stopped developer Pikku-a from trying to put their own spin on the infamous sub-genre. That’s where Dr. Atominus comes in; an old school looking sci-fi platformer that features elements you would ordinarily expect to find in a metroidvania title. Is a budget-priced session with Dr. Atominus what everyone needs right now, or will a lack of innovation see it overshadowed in a crowded market?
While Dr. Atominus doesn’t exactly reinvent the proverbial wheel, it may serve well as an entry-level metroidvania platformer. It depends whether you can overlook a few questionable aspects in order to embrace the experience as a cheap and cheerful one.
The premise of Dr. Atominus sees the titular character making a scientific breakthrough while attempting to uncover the secrets of the fourth dimension. In doing so, he magnifies an atom that becomes full of life and is ready to be experimented on further. Well, the atom has other ideas and wishes to escape before anything else is done to it; this is where you’ll take over control of the atom in a bid to flee from the clutches of Dr. Atominus.
Focusing on the writing first, and it isn’t great to be honest. With text-based dialogue serving up a tale using very straightforward, unexciting and generally quite simple sentences, you won’t ever be on tenterhooks. Interestingly though, there’s a neat little twist in the narrative and, as the plot unfolds, it at least provides insight into the importance of the atom itself. Other than that, it’s a forgettable story, which means the success of Dr. Atominus relies mainly on the gameplay.
In order to reach a conclusion to the adventure and find a way out, you must guide the atom through a series of inter-connected rooms with only lateral movement and the option to jump at your disposal. Back-tracking is all but assured as certain areas are off-limits until you acquire more abilities. So far, so metroidvania, right?
Well, almost every ability comes about by defeating each of the bosses, which provides the atom with an extra electron that allows you to perform new moves. You can eventually use the patented double-jump, gain the opportunity to wall-climb, fire mesons at enemies, and turn blocks into water. I say eventually, but given that the entire journey is over within an hour, you won’t be waiting for long. While some games of this ilk can feel like a chore, the speed at which you’ll gather the new abilities here is very welcome.
There’s plenty going on in the short space of time too. Whether you’re taking down the generally squishy looking enemies patrolling certain rooms, or manoeuvring blocks onto buttons to open up pathways, it’ll keep you busy. In addition, some parts are filled with water and it puts you under pressure to reach the surface before drowning, while other sections are out to burn you with fiery hazards. Despite the variety, the lack of difficulty means you won’t ever get stuck and I doubt anyone will find it challenging.
Even in the department you usually expect to offer a challenge, the boss encounters, the action is swift and the foes are barely a threat. To add further disappointment, it’s hard to tell when you’re actually causing damage to a boss, with nothing obvious to signify it. The designs are pretty poor as well, with a sea creature resembling what can only be described as an infant’s drawing of a crocodile and a large brown circular thing with four limbs as prime examples.
Initially, the fact that Dr. Atominus possesses three different endings is an interesting prospect. However, upon reaching one conclusion in particular, it appears to bug out time and time again after what should be the beginning of a happy ending. Other than that though, having multiple endings adds a little reason to replay it at least.
On the whole, Dr. Atominus is a very cheap metroidvania style platformer, which is probably best suited to those wanting an entry-level type of instalment. It crams a lot of different features into an adventure that will last no more than an hour and deserves praise for that. Unfortunately, the ease in which you’ll venture past the bosses and through the rooms in general, means that you won’t find much of a challenge here. There are also a few terribly designed boss characters; these really stand out for all the wrong reasons in what is otherwise represented in a decent looking 8-bit style.
Whether you can overlook a handful of glitches, as well as a buggy ending, is up to you, but Dr. Atominus should do an alright job at delivering a swift blast of enjoyment. Just don’t expect too much from it.
Dr. Atominus is now available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One via the Xbox Store