There’s something uniquely enjoyable about a good puzzle game. It can be simple and complicated at the same time. You can play for just an hour, or lose several before you know it. And at the end of it all, you get the satisfaction of knowing you managed to solve your way to the very end. It’s a fine balance, but does Mekorama manage to strike the right one?
You play as the adorable little robot, “B”, who has crash-landed on a strange, mysterious cube planet. B is named after the similarly named flying insect, due to their likeness. Your job is to guide B through each stage to safety, marked by a small red button on the floor. Simple.
Mekorama has four tiers of difficulty to navigate, each consisting of 25 levels. These start with the easy levels and gradually grow in challenge, meaning there are 100 to solve in total. There are no scores to chase here, or medals to earn. You don’t have lives and there are no leaderboards to try and top to earn bragging rights. Your one and only goal is simply to solve each puzzle to progress to the next level.
It’s fairly easy to play Mekorama, as you may expect from a puzzler. B will move when you select a tile for him, by pressing A. Some stages have certain parts which can be manipulated by pressing A and using the left thumbstick. These vary from simple sliding blocks to full on cranks which move several platforms at once. To get a better view of the conundrum that lays before you, LB and RB can be used to rotate the stage.
There is something so satisfying, not to mention adorable, about setting up a clear path for B – giving the order and watching the little robot stumble his way around the stage. However, as you progress more complicated stages can prove frustrating as wheels and cranks can often react unpredictably, sometimes even flinging B off the stage altogether. If this happens, B will just stand there, lost and alone in the white void of nothingness. That is, until you restart the level from the pause menu. On one level I ended up booting him off the stage totally by accident, and felt incredibly guilty. Sorry B!
As you journey further into Mekorama, you will not only come across more obstacles, but also other robots that pose a threat. You’ll meet R, who at first just gets in the way. However, shortly after you’ll encounter what I can only describe as a decapitated version, who will electrocute you if he gets too close.
The game looks lovely, very much reminiscent of something Nintendo would produce, crossed with some elements of Minecraft. The simple, brightly coloured visuals complement the game’s cutesy, straight-forward theme. B is also undeniably cute, from his design to the way he traverses each stage. It’s hard not to instantly root for him.
The chilled, minimalist soundtrack mimics the gameplay style which overall makes for a relaxing experience. You’ll also hear an extra chime every time you instruct B to move. I’m not quite sure why, but it works.
As well as the main set of stages, Mekorama also has a level editor, which is fairly basic but a nice addition for the creative types out there. You can access all the environment elements and characters from the main game. Everything from water to brick to electrifying R is present. Unfortunately, you can’t share your level locally or online, so in one sense it defeats the purpose. If you create a level, you’re instantly going to know how to beat it.
There’s a good few hours of gameplay to be had in Mekorama, and the levels certainly get more challenging. You don’t have to complete every single level to proceed either, giving the potential to skip the ones which really cause you to scratch your head. Sadly, levels will occasionally come up where it’s not obvious in the slightest what you need to do to proceed. Once you’re past the “easy levels”, you won’t get any hints either. Seems like an odd choice to me – surely it would have been wise to save the help for the more difficult levels.
They can also be a bit hit and miss from an enjoyment perspective. For example, when you first meet R, he is physically blocking you from scaling a tower and completing the level. Essentially you need to bump him along until you can move past him. Instead of just having to tail him for a short while and then being able to proceed, you’re stuck behind him all the way to the top of the tower. This turns the stage into a tedious exercise and shows that not all gameplay variants hit the right note in Mekorama.
I guess that brings me full circle really. The thing with Mekorama is that it’s partially missing that killer puzzle game feature. I’ve mentioned it before, the “one more go factor”. It has ideas, but not enough of them versus the amount of levels that are on offer. As a result some stages can feel repetitive, meaning when you hit a difficult one you’ll most likely give up quicker than you otherwise would have done.
Mekorama on Xbox One falls short of ticking the addictive puzzler box, but remains fun for the most part. And for only £4.49, I can’t criticise it too harshly for that.