After making the enjoyable 2015 platformer Tembo the Badass Elephant, Game Freak is at it again with a new 2D action / puzzle hybrid.
Aside from working on the iconic Pokémon series, Game Freak has been trying their hand at 2D action games over the years with titles such as Pulseman for Sega Genesis and the super-fun Drill Dozer. Say what you will about Tembo the Badass Elephant but I thoroughly enjoyed its action-packed gameplay and goofy premise. However, Giga Wrecker Alt. is an entirely different experience as it combines action, puzzles, and exploration with some very clever gameplay components. You play as Reika Rekkeiji, a girl who was revived as a half-cyborg and it's your mission to save humankind from evil robot conquerors. There's a ton of dialogue that constantly pops up as you play but the story remains fairly simplistic so you won't miss out on much if you skip these scenes entirely to get back to the action.
What makes Giga Wrecker Alt.'s gameplay unique is that you have a cybernetic ability to gather debris which forms a ball. You can use this ball to form blocks, convert it into a sword, rubberize it so it acts like a trampoline, and more. In order to gather debris, you can destroy the environment and take out enemies. Speaking of which, there's a very cool puzzle element in that you have to carefully carve out certain blocks or slash a sword at specific wires in order to have platforms swing left and right or force ceilings to fall onto a horde of enemies. It's very clever stuff and I enjoyed solving these puzzles, especially because whenever you mess up, you can simply reset the room by interacting with a beam of light. Most enemies require strategy to defeat which makes combat itself feel like a puzzle and it's rewarding to progress to the next checkpoint after figuring out how to successfully navigate past tricky scenarios.
One very cool feature of Giga Wrecker Alt. is its character progression system. For starters, you acquire blue energy crystals by destroying certain blocks and foes which grants upgrade points whenever you fill the meter. Then, you use these points within a large node-based skill tree in order to earn passive boosts such as increasing your maximum health. You'll also unlock arm blueprints that allow you to equip various blocks and blades which have distinct appearances. In order to find goodies within the complex world, there's a handy map that lets you see which areas you've already visited and it contains plenty of unlockable warp points, too.
Another aspect of Giga Wrecker Alt. that I appreciate a great deal is its audio. The music sounds like it belongs in a Mega Man X game although it's not quite as memorable and the sound effects are super-satisfying. To elevate the action, you'll hear Reika vocalize grunts as she jumps and attacks and it's very well implemented so it enhances the fun and never becomes repetitive.
Although all of this sounds great, Giga Wrecker Alt.'s core gameplay falls flat in a few ways. For starters, Reika Rekkeiji isn't a very acrobatic character as all she can do is run around and jump. This makes the action-intense boss battles incredibly difficult because they move quickly and hit hard so you end up wishing that Reika could dash, dodge, and double-jump but she simply can't. Also, her jump is extremely awkward to instinctively aim. When you combine this with the fact that the visuals are often overly busy and ambiguous with complex backgrounds, it makes it extremely frustrating to be able to jump between platforms with precision. If Reika could latch onto ledges or use a grappling hook then the platforming would be much more fun. As it is, it's clunky and irritating.
Finally, I should mention that the bosses are super-annoying. Even after memorizing their patterns, I found that some parts were still random. For example, the boss may spawn a platform on the other side of the arena yet you don't have enough time to reach it.
Giga Wrecker Alt. is an exceptionally unique game that expertly combines action and puzzles. However, the fact that its gameplay simply doesn't accommodate for what it's trying to accomplish makes it an often irritating and disjointed experience.
- + Unique 2D Metroidvania gameplay with plenty of puzzles and action
- + Fantastic music, effects, and voices
- + Rewarding upgrade system
- - Gameplay isn't suited for the action-intense bosses and accurate platforming
- - Visuals are quite busy and ambiguous
- - Bosses can be more frustrating than fun