Coming from developers MAYO Games is a new entry into the puzzle/exploration genre of games; a genre which isn’t noticeably over-stocked with games. That game is Megalan 11 and despite the odd name (at first, I really thought it was a misspelling of Megaman), can something new be brought to the table. Well, the developers have tried to throw in resource management and tower defence elements as well. Is the result a pleasing melange, or a right dog’s dinner? Well, get your bib on Fido…
So, let’s have a look at the reason why we are trying to puzzle and explore, shall we? We need to have a good reason, surely? Well, it appears that we were members of a scientific expedition, floating around in our spaceship, and as we were returning home we received an SOS signal from a nearby red planet (a bit like Mars, but it isn’t specified which planet it is). Being good space farmers we decide to go and see if we can help, and while we may be red hot scientists, it turns out that piloting spaceships is not amongst our skills. One crash later and all five members of the crew are waking, thrust into a world where we have to survive. Can we escape?
Presentation of Megalan 11 is not a strong point. In fact, it gets off to a poor start when none of the buttons do what you think they will. More on that later but for now our crew is a motley selection of five guys in spacesuits with large, glowing helmets; we can only control one of them. The rest of the crew are a complete waste of space not helping with any of the tasks, generally just standing about and getting injured. Still, at least the rest of the game is fairly dull to look at, with rubbish monster designs, a camera that appears to think ten pints is the right amount to drink before turning up for a shift, and generally being a bit rubbish.
It’s a similar tale in terms of the audio too and whilst there is some sound, what it is is just noise, mainly, with awful plinky plonky tunes and a dull soundtrack that consists of either hammering as we break things, or the sound of a ratchet as we mend things. It’s not going well so far, is it?
But what is the gameplay loop here, what do we have to do in order to survive and thrive on an alien world? Well, as I said in the paragraph above, we have to break stuff to remake stuff, and that is pretty much it. After the spaceship crash, we have to take shelter in an abandoned base that seems to have been built for some reason. There is no back story to explain why this base is here – it just is. Anyway, what we need to do is explore the base, get the power, the water and the comms back on, and then see where we end up. What this entails is breaking things that are lying around the various rooms, smashing them for scrap, and then using the ensuing scrap to mend doors and installations. One of the first things we find is a bag that we can use to keep scrap in (up to 50 pieces). From there we discover a skip that we can store scrap in as well.
This then is pretty much the whole of Megalan 11 – Find scrap, use it to either mend stuff or make stuff (such as defences that can be placed around the base to dissuade the various enemies from going inside and spoiling things) and then rinse and repeat. As we explore the base, we can find various things that will make other things better, such as extra power cores for the power system that will open extra floors and power up the elevator and so on. When we find the machines to build defences, we first have to mend it, then use 50 scrap at a time to make these defences, each one of which has a different effect on the monsters that infest the world.
And yes, there are monsters. You’ve got the likes of the Space Cow, which is put off by one type of defence, but this same defence will attract the Squid, for instance, so we have to plan it out a bit. The worst enemy is a kind of electric fish; if it touches you you’ll find yourself encased in a bubble for a bit. Now, this isn’t too bad, but the worst bit is that the enemy can stick its head through doors and walls and encase you in said bubble, even when you think you should be safe. I cannot stress how annoying that is.
Further, the enemies can also injure the other crew members, and the only notification that this is happening, when a crew member is down and needs assistance, is a slight change in the tempo of the music. You have to then stop doing what you are doing, find the downed member, and then revive them. Why, you ask? Well, the only way to save the game is by “Cheering up a crew member” – I imagine if they are all dead, it may be tricky.
Other issues? Well, there are plenty. The camera can be turned to one of four views, each at 90 degrees to each other, and while this is okay, in tight spaces the camera gets very confused. It is actually worse when you step outside of the base onto the planet, as the camera sails off into the distance and shows you absolutely nothing of any use. And then we’ve got the controls and button situation that I hinted at previously. It’s here where the developers have decided to use X as the main button that you use to interact with the world, while Y is used to pick things up and B is used to examine things. This is okay, once you are used to it, but the tutorial is pretty rubbish at explaining anything, so it is a bit of a mess, frankly.
It’s not helped that trying to get your character lined up to smash something is an exercise in frustration, and the amount of time you need to hold down X in order to fix things depends on how much scrap it needs. With the Taser, for instance, taking 300 scrap to fix, you are there for a while. As long as the electric fish doesn’t get you, of course…
Worse than any of this is that Megalan 11 just isn’t fun. There is no sense of jeopardy, no sense of danger, no sense of impending doom if you don’t escape in the 11 days that the game gives you – there is just the unending grind of trying to get enough scrap to mend a door before a Space Cow melts its way through again.
In this day and age, I think us gamers deserve a lot more than what Megalan 11 serves up.
Megalan 11 is on the Xbox Store