Coming from Cascadia Games and ChiliDog Interactive is Mighty Aphid; a new game in a genre that isn’t short of a title or two, that of a retro platform shooter. Think Megaman and you won’t be a million miles away. So, I guess the question I’ll be trying to answer in this review is whether the game brings anything new to the table, or is it another also ran?
Mighty Aphid’s narrative is the usual kind of nonsense that seems to infest these types of games. To quote from the game’s blurb: “His famous father is aging. His mother is dying. And his big sister is on the moon”. And so of course, it’s down to us, as Avery “Aphid” Cavor, to stop the villainous Lady Bug and her army of vicious alien-looking things from destroying the pretty little town of Victoria, where they live. And how best to do this? Well, not dust off and nuke the entire site from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure) but instead to don a suit of power armour, with a built in weapon in one arm (I’m having a flash of deja vu here) and bring the pain. One. Level. At. A. Time.
Now, any self respecting hero in a suit of power armour needs to bring more than harsh language to the table, and luckily Avery is suitably tooled up. The suit has an in-built blaster, and also a nifty line in double jumps, helping Avery get around. When you first start the game, you can access any of the first three levels, while the other three are locked. Blasting your way through these early levels, rescuing civilians along the way (this is mandatory, you cannot exit the level unless all the victims are rescued), and then defeating a boss will grant you a power up, ranging from wings that allow flight, via a triple blaster and on to the ability to be healed by picking up the gems that litter the levels.
Nowhere is it explained what these gems do, but they become vital, as in addition to healing you, every jump when flying and every shot from your triple blaster depletes your gem store. Once your gems hit zero – and they will in the later levels – you lose access to the upgrades. Now, this is a pretty major mechanic, and it’s therefore strange that it isn’t flagged anywhere that this is the case.
Still, now that forewarned is forearmed, and now you know about the gems, how does the rest of Mighty Aphid play out? Pretty well is the answer, with the proper level of difficulty present and correct. If you lose all your health, it’s an instant game over, with the level you are currently on having to be restarted from the beginning. The stages themselves are large and sprawling, with a pleasing verticality to them, and you’ll need to explore every nook and cranny in order to find the civilians you need to rescue. There are perils aplenty, both from the environment and from enemies, and as you’d expect, as you go through the levels the difficulty increases enormously.
A special mention has to go to the alien-type dudes who shoot massive missiles at you, and can kill you in two hits! Running, jumping, shooting, even swimming are all present here, and in fact the only thing missing from the Bumper Book of Platform Game Cliches is an ice level.
The controls are pretty good as well, with pinpoint accuracy possible on the jumps, and helpfully the flying power-up can save you from a bad jump. What makes Mighty Aphid a lot harder than it should be though is the complete lack of invincibility frames, which are traditional in these titles. You know the ones: you get hit, your character flashes briefly to indicate you are invincible, and you get clear of the danger. Not here! If, as often happens, a wasp or even a boss hits you, they push you, while continuing to damage you, and the only result is an early death. You soon learn to keep your distance. And weirdly, despite being in a massive armoured suit, if Avery jumps on a worm, the worm is defeated but Avery is also hurt. Why? Did they armour every bit of the suit except the soles of the boots, which are made of cardboard?
All in all though and aside from a couple of little issues Mighty Aphid is a pretty cool game. It has the 1990’s vibe nailed on, comes complete with a very nice chiptune-styled soundtrack and delivers a properly rock hard challenge. Level 6, as befits its place as the final level, is incredibly hard and will take you multiple runs to complete. Once you’ve beaten all six levels, you will have all the Xbox achievements you will need, and I have to say that due to this the urge to go back to the game is then found to be pretty weak. But it’s a blast while it lasts, and while Mighty Aphid isn’t the longest game in the world, it doesn’t need to be.
Help out Avery in Mighty Aphid, on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One