As I work my way through a large backlog of games on Steam, I have started to realize that I am not required to play every single one to completion. Over the years I have accumulated a significant collection of games via various sales and bundle deals. Mechanic Escape came from one of those game bundles and as you can imagine from the title, it is also one of those I will not be playing to completion anytime soon.
If you watched the Quick Look video above you should already know most of the issues I have with this game. Instead of repeating the same stuff again, I will instead compare the game to three of my favourite modern platformers that are relatively similar in style.
- Dustforce – Launched January 17, 2012 (Currently 10.99$ CAD): I only have a couple hours on this game but was enough to explore the combination of combat and rhythm like movement that make this one a very cool experience.
- Rayman Origins – Launched November 15, 2011 (Currently 9.99$ CAD): This is a more casual platformer that is absolutely beautiful and it does provide more difficult challenges for those who need something extra.
- Super Meat Boy – Launched October 20, 2010 (Currently 16.99 $CAD): A tough and challenging platformer which proved that excellent design can eliminate much of the frustration you would typically expect from a game like this.
The most important element for a successful platformer is good movement and controls. They need to be predictable, responsive and fairly tight to prevent any unwarranted mistakes. Implementing an equally tight air control system also helps open up games from being purely timing based into something more skill based as well.
- Dustforce has the most complex movement with many abilities and moves such as sliding, wall running, double jumps, dashing, etc… The important factor is that the game has very snappy controls and makes extensive use of abilities to build momentum and glide through the level.
- Rayman starts off with simple platforming controls and slowly adds a few abilities over the course of the game. The game also more relaxed with slower movement overall but it still has predictable air and jump control making it easy to play.
- Super Meat Boy is the fastest game of the bunch and also has the tightest controls. The gravity can be quick but good air control and mild wall sliding gives just enough margin for error.
- Mechanic Escape has responsive ground control but extremely floaty air movement with practically no jump control. The jumps are so floaty that it leads to mistakes that otherwise shouldn’t happen which leads to a sloppy feel.
While all remarkably different in terms mechanics, every game shares the same common theme of tight and responsive controls. Unfortunately Mechanic Escape fails in this regard when the jumping just doesn’t feel good.
Another key element for platformers is good level design. Once you have established the base controls and mechanics, levels should be designed around them to provide various challenges.
- Dustforce is the game I have the least experience with. In my short time with the game it seems like the levels tend to be somewhat large and open. It also seems like there are a few ways to complete levels as there isn’t exactly a fixed path, however there is an ideal one for completionists.
- Rayman has simple left to right levels with some of them autoscrolling. The game does make use of various enemies, moving platforms and objects to assist your movement. The game is focused on fun so every level tends to have some neat touches.
- Super Meat Boy uses linear level layouts however being the most difficult game here, it litters each map with various pits and devices that will kill you. There are moving obstacles, death machines and enemies to avoid and boss levels to boot too.
- Mechanic Escape is the other game that I have minimal experience with so I have no idea how later levels evolve and change. From the levels present in the first chapter the game does have a few different tools to help with your mobility and others to kill, however it is inconsistent as certain elements decide to randomly move in later levels without warning. Beyond that the level design is pretty tight necessitating very precise timings.
Some basic design rules for good video game have been set in stone over 20 years ago and one of those was to never intentionally kill the player. There is a point where Mechanic Escape takes a known obstacle that players have encountered several times and suddenly decides to make it move as players do a typical jump to avoid it. This results in a completely unavoidable death which is a perfect way to really frustrate players as they now feel like the game tricked them. Beyond that the level design is too tight which resulted in several wall jumps to my death when I should have been jumping over the obstacle instead.
Finally the last important bit for great platformers is audio and visuals. These two elements will drastically change the perception of a game and it helps set the tone the developers were looking for.
- Dustforce has a very soothing audio soundtrack with a clean and simple art design, that is once you have cleaned the level of course. While this game rivals Super Meat Boy in terms of challenge, the tone is drastically different leading you to believe it is a more casual game.
- Rayman is designed to be way more casual which cannot be more apparent from the bright and colourful levels. This is a beautiful game and everything about it is designed to be happy and full of energy.
- Super Meat Boy aims for a dark and gritty aesthetics with a fast and aggressive soundtrack to match. Designed from the outset as being a tough but rewarding game, the fantastic soundtrack helps further push this idea.
- Mechanic Escape has clean visuals but nothing particularly stands out. And as for the audio side… does the game even have a soundtrack? I honestly don’t even know if this game does have music, if it does it is obviously something fairly forgettable.
So once again we have a common theme where my three benchmark titles invested significant effort in both audio and visuals which pays off massively in setting the tone for each of those games. When I look and listen to Mechanic Escape I don’t see any character or style, it simply comes off as something bland and generic which will be quickly forgotten.
To conclude with this quitting review, it is painfully obvious what separates the good games from the generic ones in the case of 2D platformers. The three games I used in this comparison released between 2010 and 2012 giving plenty of time to be used as benchmarks for games coming out in the past year. Mechanic Escape fell short in every major element that made my other three platformers the great games they are. While I have no doubt Slak Games set out to make the best game they could possibly make, it would have been beneficial if they studied and borrowed a couple elements from popular games to bring something new to the table. As it stands this is another game that will get added to the mountain of other generic titles that get released on a weekly basis.