Forget Elden Ring, the indie platformer is where difficulty really hides. It’s some kind of alchemy: as soon as you combine a budget title with pixel graphics – poof! – a rock-hard nugget of platforming appears. You know it’s going to make you cry.
We got the leather gaming gloves out ready for Mekabolt+. This was a pixel platformer at a budget price, which HAD to mean that it was going to be brutal.
As it happens, Mekabolt+ is exactly the opposite. This is a friendly, frictionless little platformer that even a family could enjoy together. You could argue it goes too far in the other direction.
Mekabolt has actually been launched before, way back in 2019, but without that all-changing ‘plus’ at the end of the title. This packages in twenty-four additional levels as a challenge mode, but everything else is roughly the same.
It’s the tale of a theme park technician, charged with fixing some malfunctioning robots that have all gone a bit Westworld. She has to find a battery at the end of a level which will somehow make everything good again.
On the way are said robots, but the technician has a handy tool for dealing with them: the titular Mekabolt. It’s basically a gun, but shooting a robot incapacitates it, sometimes only momentarily, allowing you to use it in some form. A flying robot becomes a moving platform; a blocky robot becomes a step to higher platforms. In latter levels, robots become teleporters and spear-chuckers, constructing ledges for you to climb on.
It makes robots a double-edged sword: they can kill you, but they can also be handy for completing the level, and it’s this duality that makes Mekabolt+ a pocket joy. Not only are you disarming the robots, but you are looking to disarm them in the right place at the right time, so that they can be a stepping stone to the battery at the end of the level.
Different robots are added to the game at a fair old pace, so variety is never an issue. A reassuring achievement pops after you see them for the first time, and 1000G will be up within an hour or so. And while they start out relatively vanilla, the robot designs get more interesting by the time you hit the game’s Command Centre levels.
Mekabolt+ also manages to keep both the quality and quantity high. There is an absolute truckload of levels here, with ninety-six in the main game and a further twenty-four in the challenges section. These challenges even manage to upend the main game’s mechanics, handing you control of a completely different character who can pick up and move robots, leading to fundamentally different puzzles.
The quality is high, because the level layouts are always on the lookout for a new idea to toy with. They’re not revolutionary – they are too concise to do anything elaborate – but you will have a continual sense that the level you’re on is different from any that you have played. We’d also like to compliment the soundtrack, which absolutely slaps. We haven’t reached for Spotify that quickly before, desperate to see if it’s on there (it’s not).
Where Mekabolt+ falls down is in its challenge. There is nothing here that will test a Celeste fan. It gives so many allowances to the player, that you will often feel a hand is leading you. For families, or players looking for a more casual experience, it might be a godsend. For anyone who thrives on the game pushing back, forcing you to raise your game, Mekabolt+ will do nothing of the sort.
And while there are plenty of levels, they can be burned through at quite the rate. There’s no real challenge and the levels are short, so you can be at the end of one of the game’s three biomes before you know it. If there was an attempt to foster replayability, it might not have been a problem. Some collectibles, star rankings or additional modes might have multiplied the time we had with Mekabolt+. We were certainly game for it: we had a cracking time with the levels. But there was nothing, no olive branch to level-replay. We had to put it down when we still had the appetite for more.
But we land on the positive side with Mekabolt+. It may be on the easy side, but we suspect it’s because the developers wanted to get friction out of the way so that the ideas shine. And they do shine, for a short couple of hours.
Mekabolt+ is a colourful platformer whose gimmick – a gun that converts its enemies into useful tools – is more than throwaway. It’s a springboard to some imaginative levels, some cool robot designs and a family-friendly platforming experience that you can luge through while barely touching the sides. Just don’t expect it to challenge you.
You can buy Mekabolt+ from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S