Developer: The Good Mood Creators
Publisher: The Good Mood Creators
Rating: E for Everyone
If you are old enough to have owned a Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, chances are that many of your fondest memories of those consoles include platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong Country, or Super Mario Bros. The Good Mood Creators’ Mekazoo takes aim at Sonic’s heritage in particular, with a cast of characters created to provide unique platforming mechanics. But does Mekazoo live up to its predecessors?
Mekazoo is a family-friendly title. The ultimate goal is to reach the end of each stage. Insects, flies, and slugs stand in your way. Defeating them is completely optional most of the time, but there are objectives that may require players to do so to acquire a medal.
There’s very little story to be found in Mekazoo. You’re simply asked to jumped into the action and go, with few clear-cut narrative cues along the way. As is the case for many classic platformers, story takes a backseat to gameplay.
You wake up in the Mother Pod as an armadillo and discover that your fellow mekanimals have been corrupted and it is up to you to save them. A new mekanimal becomes playable once you face off against it in a boss fight at the end of each zone. You can play as an armadillo, frog, kangaroo, panda, and pelican, switching between them on the go throughout each level. At the start of each level, you’re given two mekanimals to work with, though that combination can change mid-level. The levels are multi-faceted, too. Even when a stage seems geared for a specific character, you may discover that another makanimal can provide an alternate route. My favorite characters were the Sonic-like armadillo and the frog (who uses his tongue to swing across gaps), primarily because they can both move through stages with the greatest ease.
Of the handful of environments in the game, I found my favorite to be the cityscape/metropolis area. I rode trains, climbed skyscrapers, and crossed a large freeway via Frogger. I’m also particularly drawn to a zone that morphs from ice to molten volcanoes as I progress through it. On top of the engaging and eye-catching level design, each zone also includes challenging bonuses stages. For example, one of these set me in a small square, fighting to survive a gauntlet of saws coming from every direction. Successful level design is complemented by a nostalgic soundtrack that takes many cues from 90’s-era platformers. The soundtrack’s catchy jingles give an extra touch of personality to the characters and environments.
Mekazoo is not a video game you can just plow right through. Instead of simply about getting from A to B, there are a number of objectives in each level that you must complete in order to earn medals. Like the latest Rayman titles, you can’t advance until you acquire the goal number of lums (or, in this case, medals). This roadblock occurs about halfway through Mekazoo, which forced me to return to old stages to complete some of these extra objectives. Objectives are the same for each level: complete the stage within a certain time, finish without dying, defeat all of a specific enemy, and find the secret switch. Acquiring the medals is challenging and rewarding, but having to replay some of the stages multiple times causes some of their initial charm to disappear.
Mekazoo includes a few bells and whistles that I thought were a nice touch. The light customization menu is a fun way to personalize the characters. At certain stations within the levels, you have the option of customizing the colors and costumes of your mekanimals. You can change the skin color and “glow” color of each mekanimal, as well as try on costumes that emulate the natural patterns of certain animals. For example, a “Bovine” costume gave my characters the pattern of a cow.
One mode that I did not get the chance to put through the paces was local co-op mode. I imagine that playing Mekazoo with a friend is likely some good chaotic fun. Co-op would also be ideal for younger and less experience gamers as well. Considering Mekazoo can be rather challenging (especially with its emphasis on completing trickier re-runs of levels in exchange for medals), it may be best for younger players to play with a more experience sibling or adult while using Mekazoo’s local cooperative feature.
Mekazoo has some minor flaws, but it’s still a solid experience any retro gamer can get behind. In fact, the last time I had an experience like this was with Yoshi’s Woolly World. That was just over a year ago and happened to be the first review I wrote for Geeks Under Grace. Today’s industry is saturated with open-world sandboxes, action RPGs, and shooters of every kind. For that reason, I have a soft spot for the indie scene–because developers like The Good Mood Creators can create wonderful titles that challenge mainstream trends. With video games like Mekazoo, we can all take a break from the new norm and just enjoy a solid platformer.
Review copy provided by The Good Mood Creators
The Bottom Line
Mekazoo is a great callback to the platformers we all know and love, especially with its cast of playable characters that drive the gameplay. A pretty decent level of challenge is present, yet the younger audience it looks to be made for may not be able to grasp it.