Mekazoo, the vibrant platformer from the Good Mood Creators, brings us perfect platforming, sensational speedrunning and magical Mekanimals. It also delivers a world full of colour and gives us the opportunity to explore the strange dynamic worlds either alone or with a sofa based friend. But does the debut title from a group of old school mates supply us with excitement or frustration?
Well, unfortunately it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but because I’m a fair man, I will however start with the good stuff…and there is an absolute ton of that in place.
Mekazoo in its most basic form is a 2D platformer set within full 3D worlds in which you have to make your way from one end, to the other, without dying. Now, in order to explore these worlds, you’ll find yourself taking control of a set of five Mekanimals – a kinetically diverse cast of creatures which bring their own unique abilities to the table. The idea behind it all is fairly straight forward; grab a Mekanimal or two and help them progress through the level in the best way possible. Reach the end and you’ll be left to search the world for another stage, before rinsing, repeating and defeating a few big, super tough bosses in the process.
Each level has been well created and allows for multiple routes through. Much of the variety included comes about from the Mekanimals themselves and all of the Armadillo, Frog, Wallaby, Pelican and Panda have been realised superbly well. The Armadillo is fast and can spin himself into a ball to travel at high speed, whilst the Frog brings about a much slower affair, but with a long sticky tongue gives the opportunity to swing from obstacle to obstacle. The Wallaby hops and jumps his way around each stage – but his very nature makes him pretty frustrating to use, whilst the Panda slowly trudges to glory, bashing through or climbing any wall and enemy that may get in his way. The final character you’ll find yourself taking charge of is the Pelican and this one drops in a mechanic that is completely different from the rest as you get the chance to gracefully glide through each stage.
The Mekanimals themselves are delivered at a well thought out pace, ensuring that our skills are on point with each one before we get the chance to confuse ourselves with a new option too quickly. Sometimes you’ll be limited to using just one of these delightful creatures as you go about your quest, but for the vast majority of the time, will be left with two switchable beasts which will need to be well utilised in order to succeed. A quick press of the bumper buttons actions your switch and everything is fast, fluid and works well.
It is a bit easy to get confused as to which animal you are using at any one time, and whilst there is a fair amount of colour and armour which can be customised to unlocked colours, it doesn’t quite go into enough depth. Personally I feel that The Good Mood Creators have missed a trick in not allowing you to change the look of each Mekanimal individually, as this would help massively in any confusion stakes, but it is what it is and I’m not going to moan too much about that.
The levels are nothing but superb and can be completed at your own pace, with a certain degree of variety in place and hidden secrets, collectable gems and more to grab. You’ll find yourself going back over stages time and time again and in fact, this is pretty much essential. That’s because in order to unlock further stages, you will need to have picked up a certain number of gears, each of which are obtainable by completing a stage, hitting a specific target of enemies, getting to the end without dying or speedrunning your way through and beating a par time. Repeating the same thing over and over again can sometimes become a bit of a drag, but honestly, Mekazoo is a bit of a speedrunners dream and you’ll find yourself happily going over the same level time and time again as you try to shave mere seconds off your best. It is normally during these multiple playthroughs that you’ll find all hidden secrets and the special ‘secret switcher’ which grants you access to a different character set. Whether or not these will be of use to you or not is another matter though.
With a bright neon glow holding the eye-popping visuals together, and one of the best electronic/jazz/industrial soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in recent times banging away in the background, Mekazoo is one of those platforming titles that just keeps dragging you back for more and more…and more.
Everything I have mentioned so far can be experienced either alone or with a local friend. Now, switching between animals as a single player is easily done and requires little skill, but in order for Mekazoo not to become a frustrating hell hole, you will need some decent cooperation between multiple players. Working in the exact same way as before, with only ever two animals to work with, each player will control one, needing to take the reins at the optimum moment, before handing back to their friend. It would have been nice to see Mekazoo make the most of the online community, but in order for it to work well with two players, switching of Mekanimals needs to be utterly instant and smooth – something which is done perfectly in the local form, but may have seen issues for those playing with others from around the world. With two controllers next to each other though, the cooperative play is stunning, coming across just as well as that of a solo player. Full drop-in/drop-out play has been well implemented and so whether you grab a friend for a minute in order to help you through a particularly tricky situation, or want to settle down with them for an hour or two, Mekazoo allows for both.
So, the basics of Mekazoo are more than solid, allowing a delightful experience that evokes memories of platforming action in years gone by. So why aren’t I able to give the Good Mood Creators a higher rating for their first game? Well, I’ve got a few words for you; bugs, glitches and game crashing moments.
You see, the vast majority of my time with Mekazoo has been a good one, but in those hours – in fact, in the very first minutes I ever got to sit down with it – major slowdown put a huge damper on proceedings. Now, I can just about cope with that, but when the experience sometimes stutters along at a pace that is as far away from the one the developers require of a speed running platformer, then something is massively wrong. Throw in multiple game crashes with levels becoming inaccessible, requiring a full reset to fix and occasions when Mekazoo just plain flat fails to load, then you can probably see and feel how utterly disappointed I’ve been. There are also occasionally camera issues, with the screen failing to follow the Mekanimal in question. This is especially prevalent when heading back to the Pod Room which houses each stage. Whether a patch is in the process of being thrown out in order to fix these problems, I’m not currently sure. But I’ve reached out to the Good Mood Creators in the hope there is one arriving swiftly. In fact, Mekazoo needs one so desperately that, you may just see me sitting up and praying to the gods at night until one arrives. And I’m not a religious man.
Without those issues, Mekazoo is a damn great game; one that delivers enough platforming action, enough explorative opportunities and plenty of well created levels that just beg for some speedrunning fun to keep you sorted for many a week. Granted, I detest the levels which see the use of the Wallaby – but that’s probably because my skills let me down massively – and thankfully the other Mekanimals easily balance out any discrepancies that the hoppy one brings. When we combine those massive positives with some super bright visuals that, on the whole, are spot on, and a number of backing tunes which will easily earworm their way into your head, and you’ve got a game that really must be played.
The bugs need to be fixed first but once they do, you can stick at least another full point onto the rating below.