Arcade Distillery brings us a platformer/shooter hybrid based in the same world as the strategy game Mecho Wars.
Upon starting Mecho Tales for the first time, the character and environmental designs really jumped out at me. Although sometimes bizarre, they are really drawn with a remarkable amount of detail. The robotic enemy designs are especially impressive and I found myself enjoying their intricate and unique renderings for a few seconds before slaughtering them.
Unfortunately, the gameplay mechanics of Mecho Tales can't quite compare to the gorgeous visual style. Mecho Tales plays like a hybrid 2D platformer and twin-stick shooter. You move your character using the left stick and fire your companion drone with the right. Jumping is conveniently handled using the right trigger so you don't have to take your thumb off the right stick.
The platforming is competent but rarely inspired. You'll come across plenty of moving platforms, instant-death spikes and pits, and even vanishing block platforms à la Mega Man. The one major frustration with the platforming is the aforementioned instant death spikes and pits. When you get hit by enemies, you'll be knocked back slightly which sometimes pushes you into one of these traps. Even worse, there are no invincible frames after taking damage so being knocked into spikes gives you no time at all to recover. There are a decent amount of checkpoints and no punishment for death so other than having to replay small segments of a level multiple times, there's no major drawback for dying which helps to alleviate the instant death frustration a bit.
The shooting mechanic is simple but it gets dull fairly quickly. You just aim and fire at enemies and that's about it. A few enemies launch projectiles or drop bombs on you but most can be dispatched from a safe distance. There's rarely much challenge when it comes to fighting baddies but at least there is a bit of weapon variety as you can buy new drones that have different attack patterns. However, I found myself sticking with the default one most of the time. Once in a while, I'd swap to a different drone for a specific situation but I found that generally, either their power or range was too weak to justify using all the time.
Mecho Tales' level design contributes to the monotony with every other stage being a boss level that is just a flat area where you have to fight a bunch of enemies. Even non-boss levels don't do much in way of level design. You simply move forward and complete a few odd platforming sections. Boss battles are the single most fun part of the campaign as they usually consist of hulking monstrosities. However, they have a limited variety of attack patterns and generally absorb way more damage than they reasonably should.
Mecho Tales' world really looks remarkable so it's a shame that the rest of the game is so woefully average. There's nothing terrible about it but there is very little (aside from the graphical style) that I'd actually recommend for people to check out.
- + Great visual style with detailed characters and environments
- + Intuitive controls
- - Uninteresting level design / frustrating instant death traps
- - Dull and easily exploitable combat
- - Bosses are complete bullet sponges