Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (3DS) Review

Seek a Way Out

The Zero Escape series began on the Nintendo DS with 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, a mystery thriller about nine characters trying to escape a ship. The game featured branching decisions, puzzling escape sequences, and huge twists that turned the story upside-down. Despite its commercial failure in Japan, the series was well-met with critics, leading to a sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward, on Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. The game built upon the intriguing plot of the original and brought new characters, more escape rooms, and a bigger emphasis on science fiction. Again, the game didn’t sell well, which led to series creator, Kotaro Uchikoshi, putting the series on hold indefinitely. Luckily, fan response and a desire to finish what he started led Uchikoshi to finally create the conclusive third game of the Zero Escape trilogy, Zero Time Dilemma.

Story

Zero Time Dilemma weaves a tale similar to previous Zero Escape games but puts its own creative twist into it. Again, a group of people find themselves trapped in a facility thanks to a mysterious character who goes by “Zero.” Everyone unwillingly participates a survival game in which six players’ deaths will allow the remaining three to escape. Meanwhile, Zero engages them in life-threatening decision games that often end in betrayal or self-destruction.

ZTD_Zero.jpg
Meet the masked mastermind, Zero.

Of course, that’s not all. The huge catch is that every 90 minutes, the characters are injected with a drug that causes them to fall asleep and lose their memories of that fragment in time. This unique concept manifests in the gameplay as well. You can experience nearly any 90 minute fragment in whatever order you choose. Since the characters don’t remember what happened beforehand, it’s almost like starting anew each time. Unfortunately, this makes development seem somewhat static. However, this unique style of storytelling sets up its own brand of intrigue. Each fragment is part of a large timeline, which you view as a massive flowchart. Certain sections of the timeline remain locked until you complete specific story elements. As you play more fragments, you can piece together the timeline and solve the mystery of this treacherous game.

Unlike previous titles, the characters are divided into three groups that rarely interact with each other. Although you get to appreciate each group’s rapport more, you miss out on individuals’ reactions to characters outside of their group. Regardless, the characters are entertaining and run the gamut of personalities. You play as the three team leaders: loyal and righteous fireman Carlos, kind but anxious Diana, and mysterious entity Q. Rounding out the rest of the cast are some new characters and some familiar faces from both 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward. Fans of those games will be pleased to see more conclusive revelations to these characters’ fates.

ZTD_characters 2.jpg
The characters of Zero Time Dilemma. Who lives and who dies?

Gameplay

ZTD is largely rooted in the visual novel genre, so storytelling is essentially half of the game. Experiencing the story is more cinematic than ever before, with fully-animated, voiced cutscenes replacing the lines of text from previous entries. After choosing a team and fragment from the menu, you watch that particular episode.

Within most fragments, you will encounter the second part of this game: escape sequences. This style of gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has ever participated in a real-life escape-the-room game or have played older adventure/point-and-click games. In these sequences, you must seek a way out of a locked room by searching the area, solving puzzles, and managing items. Each room features unique challenges, including spatial reasoning puzzles, codebreaking, math problems, logic riddles, and hidden-picture minigames. The game effectively utilizes the 3DS’ touchscreen for its challenges and point-and-click portions. Additionally, a memo function lets you take notes, which is almost required for certain puzzles. A room’s difficulty largely depends on a player’s ability to solve these logic puzzles, but they are all generally solvable without requiring outside assistance.

ZTD_Escape Room.jpg
One of many rooms where you must seek a way out.

The puzzle rooms are mostly enjoyable breaks from the story, but they share common pitfalls. First, most of the rooms follow a linear structure. Although you can technically access most puzzles from the get-go, there is typically one puzzle you are required to solve that will give you the solution to the next puzzle, and so-on. Some rooms are open-ended, but most only give the illusion of choice. Building upon this issue, some rooms require you to find certain items to complete a challenge. However, on some occasions, these items are too well-hidden, represented as only a sparkle or tiny item on the floor. These annoying pixel hunts serve as barriers for players who are just trying to solve the codes and escape.

Following most escape rooms, Zero tasks the characters with a decision game, usually tied to a complex scientific, statistical, or psychological principle, such as the anthropic principle, the Monty Hall Problem, and the prisoner’s dilemma. Each decision leads to a different branch point, further complicating the extensive timeline. Thankfully, you can return to any segment of the timeline at any time to redo a decision. You can even fast-forward through story elements to get to the branch point, making the experience user-friendly.

ZTD_Puzzle Machine.jpg
This reminds me of a puzzle.

Without spoiling anything, ZTD’s implementation of the timeline is extremely clever both from gameplay and story perspectives. The timeline is just as much a part of the game as any other element, and the culminations of these fragments is a thrill to play through. That said, there is one section that players may get stuck on once all the available story fragments are exhausted, and better communication on that particular progress prerequisite would have been appreciated.

No matter what order or which teams you play as, there are wonderful story sequences with clever twists throughout. There are multiple endings, with some being either graphically gruesome and others presenting juicy revelations for the entire series. Some end-game twists may come off as too convoluted (even by Zero Escape standards) and may disappoint some fans looking for more in the trilogy’s conclusion. However, ZTD answers many questions and ties up loose ends from all three games, which fans won’t want to miss out on.

ZTD_Flowchart.png
The timeline is so extensive that the game gives you two flowcharts.

Graphics and Sound

ZTD utilizes fully animated and voiced cutscenes, which is a huge step-up from text-heavy static screens. The characters don’t move that much, which is to be expected from a dialogue-heavy game, but the models look pretty good and resemble an anime-styled Telltale Games presentation. During action scenes, the framerate drops and the cutscenes devolve into PlayStation era FMV sequences. Regardless, having these extensive cutscenes helps this game feel more modern.

ZTD_Sigma
This is quite the predicament.

The game has options for both English and Japanese voice tracks, which will appease players of either camp. The voices are good for the most part, although there are some volume issues with certain characters like Zero, whose voice is very hard to hear. The creepy music contributes to the game’s tone while mild techno tracks during escape sequences help get the brain running. Longtime fans will be all too familiar with the five discordant tones signaling death and madness, and the series wouldn’t be the same without it.

Playtime/Replayability

ZTD will take most players between 25-30 hours, making it shorter than the previous entry, Virtue’s Last Reward. Total playtime varies depending on how long players take during puzzle sequences. Although there are multiple endings and many fragments to complete, most playthroughs will go through each fragment and ending to get through the whole story, so there isn’t as much replayability as it may seem. It is very possible to replay it like rereading a good book, and playing fragments in a different order can make it interesting. For the most part, this game is only meant to be played once.

ZTD_characters.jpg
Can you put an end to Zero’s wretched scheme? What is the truth behind this deadly game?

Conclusion

Zero Time Dilemma has a great story filled with the ridiculous twists that Uchikoshi has become known for. This game gets scary and gory, earning its M rating, so only those who can stomach it need apply. Otherwise, players can strap themselves in for a thrilling tale filled with science fiction and horror. Mystery aficionados and puzzle fans will love this enjoyable mix of visual novel intrigue and escape room sequences. Fans of previous Zero Escape games owe it to themselves to play through the exciting series conclusion. However, players without prior experience may be lost in the midst of references and convoluted time plot. If you haven’t played a Zero Escape game, it is recommended that you play the first two installments, especially Virtue’s Last Reward. Once you are familiar with what the style and characters of those games, you will fully appreciate the madness that is Uchikoshi’s Zero Time Dilemma.

Score: 8/10

What are your thoughts on Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma? Have you ever played the other games in the Zero Escape series and what did you think? What are your favorite story-based adventure games or visual novels? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

Advertisements

Mutant Mudds Super Challenge (PS4) Review

Mud Max

The original Mutant Mudds was a challenging platformer that put players into the shoes of Max, a boy with a water cannon and a jetpack. It was a difficult game that took advantage of the Nintendo 3DS’ 3D function, allowing you to jump back and forth between layers of background and foreground. Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is a new entry that takes the assets and gameplay from the original and remixes them into tough-as-nails levels.

Gameplay

Like its predecessor, you play as Max, whose sole mission is to stop mud creatures by collecting a water sprite at the end of each level. Once again, you are armed with a water cannon that can shoot bubble bullets at foes. Pressing the jump button twice activates your jetpack, allowing you to hover over short distances. The hover is limited, but you can shoot enemies, turn around, or end the hover at any time while in midair. This leads to tight controls that give you opportunities to perform slick moves while avoiding danger. At certain launch points, you can jump between different layers of background and foreground. While this may work in the 3DS version, playing on a non-3D system makes this process a little frustrating. If you’re in the background, foreground obstacles will sometimes block your view. Conversely, being in the plane closest to the screen can be disorienting.

MutantMuddsSuperChallenge_PS4_02
One-hit-kill spikes are a super challenge.

Anyone familiar with the original Mutant Mudds will have no trouble getting re-acquainted with the gameplay. This is done purposefully since developer Renegade Kid’s purpose is to challenge veteran players. The level is methodically designed to take advantage of your tight jetpack controls. One-hit-kill spikes, bottomless pits, and rounds of enemies constantly stand in your way, usually requiring you to use up the maximum length of your jetpack’s hover. Enemies return from the original game, including mud piles that shoot projectiles and flying mud balls that drop bombs. Ghost enemies that cannot be attacked without a special weapon also make a comeback. Further increasing the difficulty, enemies are placed in locations between spikes and pits, and you have to master shooting at targets while hovering to avoid death. Later levels throw in slippery ice, poisonous bubbles, and clouds that blow you into the foreground. Instant death aside, you only get three hits before having to start over. The game realizes how hard it is and keeps track of your death count, with a counter that goes into the millions. Even then, conquering each level is rewarding, and deaths never feel unfair. Generous mid-level checkpoints and unlimited continues encourage you in the face of adversity.

MutantMuddsSuperChallenge_PS4_03.jpg
Go between foreground and background to complete levels.

As fun as the challenge is, this is not a game for beginners. Even the first stage is brutal and will likely take a good toll on your death count. The learning curve is almost non-existent, and there is no tutorial. From the get-go, you are expected to know how to play and be really good at it. Players new to the series shouldn’t start with this entry but instead play the original Mutant Mudds first.

It can be a struggle for even the best players of Mutant Mudds, but the game thankfully provides three useful power-ups from the get-go. A stronger water cannon extends the reach of your bubble shots, a high-jump allows you to reach new heights and can be used as a form of double jump, and an extended hover doubles your air time. You can only have one power-up at a time, but each one is extremely useful. In addition, you usually need a particular power-up to unlock the hidden bonus level in each stage. They take you to V-Land and G-Land, with color palettes reminiscent of the Virtual Boy and Game Boy, respectively. These levels are almost as long and just as difficult as the ones they are hidden within. They also include their own end-of-level water sprites, effectively doubling the total level count.

MutantMuddsSuperChallenge_PS4_04.jpg
Ahh, that nostalgic Game Boy green in G-Land. V-Land comes in glorious red.

Each of the 20 levels and additional bonus levels houses 100 collectible coins. The coins provide added difficulty and finding them all will require some exploration, including locating secret entrances in walls. These entrances are sometimes hard to identify, and the game only vaguely hints at their locations by showing you a small slit at the wall. Thankfully, you only need to collect each coin once per playthrough, so you can focus on missed coins on your return trip. Unlike other platformers where the coins are extra collectibles, you must obtain all coins in each world’s level to fight the corresponding world’s boss.

Bosses are brand new to the series and are well-implemented. Each boss is unique and provides either a platforming challenge or a tricky puzzle. It’s a surprise that Renegade Kid hadn’t included boss fights in the original because its clever boss encounters work well with the Mega Man-like action.

MutantMuddsSuperChallenge_PS4_05.jpg
Bosses are new to the Mutant Mudds series, and they’re better late than never.

Graphics & Sound

The retro sprite-based graphics return in Super Challenge and look as wonderful as ever. The game sports an upgraded 8-bit artstyle that is more colorful and detailed than an NES game could ever handle. The goofy expressions on enemies and Max’s lovable idle animations bring the game to life. The music is just as lovingly made, with novel catchy chiptunes accompanying the new stages. Retro music fans can collect hidden CDs in each stage, awarding one of the background tunes in the sound test.

Conclusion

Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is a welcome return to Max’s sprite-based world of tight controls and inventive hover-based platforming. With 40 levels and 100 required collectible coins in each, the amount of playtime depends largely on players’ skills. Intentionally tough but fair, the level design tests even the most hardcore players, and cruel bosses may impede progress indefinitely. Regardless, the challenge is very fulfilling and will leave you wanting more after the credits roll. Beginners beware: play Mutant Mudds first to learn the ropes. Once you’ve mastered that, take on the Super Challenge if you dare.

Score: 8/10

Note: A PS4 review copy of this game was played for this article. This review was posted on Darkstation.

What are your thoughts on Mutant Mudds Super Challenge? Have you played the original Mutant Mudds on 3DS or another system? What are some of your favorite indie platformer games? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

August 2016 Update: Blogger Recognition Award

New Business

Thank you to everyone reading this. I am constantly moved by your encouragement and readership. It means a lot to me, especially as I pursue my dreams. I wanted to give a quick update before getting to the meat of this post. First of all, I wanted to extend my sincerest gratitude to Miketendo64 and Darkstation for allowing me to write for their sites. I love being able to write video game reviews and share them with others. Miketendo64 remains an excellent source of news, features, reviews, and interviews, and I recommend checking it out for great Nintendo content. I don’t always post the reviews I write for Darkstation here, but I wanted them and everyone to know that I love being an editor for their site. It has been a great opportunity to write professional reviews for a wide range of games. Anyone interested in seeing the reviews I’ve written for games like Downwell, Drawful 2, and God Eater Resurrection can find them here.

I am happy to announce that I’ve also been writing for an anime news site for some time now and will be for a while. I won’t say much more, but anime fans may be familiar with the site. Regardless, I am very excited about this special opportunity, especially with regards to my passions and dreams. Although this takes up quite a bit of the time I previously allotted to blogging, I will keep writing here. During the busier time, I will probably be writing with a little less frequency than my previous weekly schedule (most likely biweekly). This actually works out better since I prefer quality than quantity, and putting in the time to make great articles for you to read. That said, when I am less busy and can devote more time to gaming reviews, I will do my best to post them with more frequency. Also, I know that there are a number of you who have made specific review requests. I apologize but it will likely take more time than I originally intended because of these new developments. When I do return to requests, I will get to yours first!

The last few months have been nothing short of fantastic! I was able to cover the brand new The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for E3, meet one of childhood heroes Charles Martinet (voice of Super Mario), and write about one of my most unique and special gaming experiences, Pokémon GO. I am far from done and am excited to share more video game reviews starting next week!

Thank you for reading my update! If you would like to further support me, please “like” my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MrPanda2002/ and follow me on Twitter at @MrPanda2002. Any and all support is always appreciated!

Blogger Recognition Award

Blogger Recognition Award

I’d like to give a huge thank you to The Well-Red Mage, Retr0pia75, Luvva, and TheManCalledScott for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. The Well-Red Mage (and the rest of the mage team) runs an excellent site full of quality gaming news and reviews. Most recently, the team took on the 31-Day Mage Challenge, in which the mages answered questions about video games, generating entertaining discussion. They’re great sources of knowledge, and The Well-Red Mage has been very supportive of me since I started, which means a lot and has gone a long way.

Retr0pia75 runs an excellent site featuring some of the best reviews of obscure games. It’s impressive to see so many forgotten games make a comeback through this site. Some great regular features include Retr0spectives, offering informative timelines of video game companies’ histories, and System Smack-Downs, in which Retr0pia75 compares a game or license among different console iterations. They’re quite entertaining reads!

Luvva of mrluvvaluvva has been an excellent support, promoting and helping me out when I was just starting. His video game-related musings are all honest and entertaining. He also supports those he believes, whether sharing videos of speedrunners or highlighting blog posts in his weekly MrLuvva’s Luv-In posts. Overall, he’s a great guy!

Finally, TheManCalledScott of The Wizard Dojo is an excellent reviewer, covering both the good and the bad of gaming history. It’s admirable how he seeks out some of these bad games, and the reviews always turn out great. Most recently, he has been covering Pixar movies for Pixar Month, including a review of Finding Dory!

Without further ado, here is how the Blogger Recognition Award works.

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you.
  • Attach the award to the post.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers.
  • Select 5 other bloggers you want to give the award to.

IMG_9580

Blog Beginnings

I actually shared this in my June 2016 Update, but I’d love to share a brief version of it again here. As people who know me very well (and probably anyone who reads this) can attest, I am a huge fan of video games, especially Nintendo titles. The one thing I almost love more than video games is talking about them. I decided that I wanted to write about video games and set up a page to keep a collection of my writing that I could also share to others. Writing video game reviews has been a great way for me to compose my thoughts and inform others about the merits and demerits of games that I’ve been playing. Being able to share information about a game fills me with joy, and engaging in related discussion with you in the comments has been just as rewarding. I have dreams related to the games industry, and everyone’s support and encouragement have consistently made me feel like I am making meaningful steps towards achieving my dreams.

Advice for Bloggers

Remember that the blogosphere is a huge place. As you write up your own wonderful blog posts, don’t forget to check out others’, especially those who are writing about similar topics! You can make new acquaintances, find good gaming buddies, and gain more followers. Reach out to other bloggers, whether old or new. You’d be surprised how many people just want to know that someone has read their posts. Support, encourage, and promote each other because we all go through tough times. We’re all in this together!

Finally, love what you’re doing. Life gets stressful, but if you find that blogging doesn’t help or is actually something you dread, take a break. Use that time to unwind, focus on your life duties, and remember why you write. Hopefully, you will be refreshed upon returning and have the will to keep blogging. Don’t worry. We’ll be here when you return!

Mario Kart Mushroom Trophy.jpg

Nominations

The following are people who have previously nominated me for the Liebster Award. I responded to their questions but never got a chance to properly thank them on my site. Here is my opportunity to finally do that!

Thank you five for your Liebster Award Nominations! I appreciate it, and I hope you enjoy your newest award nomination!

Entertaining Blogger Award.jpg

The Entertaining Blogger Award

I also wanted to offer a huge thank you to The Shameful Narcissist for nominating me for The Entertaining Blogger Award (I know it’s called The Entertainer Blogger Award, but that confuses me!). She is a terrific writer who recently penned an extensive Final Fantasy VII story entitled Northern Lights. She’s a wonderful person, so check out her writing!

I’ll try to keep the rest of this short, but here are the rules of this award:

the-entertainer-blogger-award.jpg

The Rules of The Entertainer Blogger Award:

  • Write a post including the award picture.
  • Nominate 12 other bloggers who are funny, inspiring, and most importantly ENTERTAINING!
  • Add these rules to the post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog!
  • Also, answer the questions down below.

1. Why did you start to blog in the first place?

I answered this earlier, but please feel free to check out my June 2016 Update for a longer explanation.

2. What is your favorite book?

I enjoy the Harry Potter series.

3. What do you dislike the most?

There are things I dislike, and trying to pick something I most dislike would be difficult. At the moment, it makes me sad to see when things are not accessible to people for whatever reason. I won’t go into much detail, but I think that we should be aware of others’ needs.

4. What’s your favorite food item from the mall?

I like cinnamon foods, like Cinnabon or cinnamon pretzels!

5. What is your favorite past time activity?

This one is easy for me: video games and anime! It’s not a coincidence that those are the two subjects I write about!

Mario Kart Green Shell Trophy

Nominations

I’ve nominated a bunch of people in this post already, so I’ll try to keep it brief to some bloggers I follow who I don’t think have gotten this award yet. Please feel free to do what you wish with the award nomination and know that I think you’re doing a great job!

  • pokeninja90 of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero  – Representing more of my anime fan’s side, pokeninja90 does an excellent job covering visual novel/otome games, as well as providing quality anime-related posts, including tackling the 30-Day Anime Challenge!
  • Kuribo of NintendoFigures – It should be no surprise that I love amiibo. Kuribo does a fantastic job providing regular reviews of amiibo, World of Nintendo figurines, and other fun Nintendo collectibles!
  • Matt of Nintendobound –  An excellent video game reviewer with a great rating system! He also writes great pieces on his favorite music albums from each month!
  • Kris P and Rachel of Double Jump – These sisters are spectacular writers who also regularly update their site with video game features including favorites lists, gaming conversations, and interesting game stories! They’re very entertaining!
  • Yvonne/YvoCaro of A Lady and Gaming Plus – I enjoy reading her take on a variety of games, some of which go missed by many gamers. She has quality reviews, features, and a great outlook on life!
  • The Gaming Bear of The Gaming Bear – He is not an actual bear, but he plays and writes about video games. He articles are on a wide range of game-related topics, and they’re all entertaining and well-informed! Check out his weekly bites!

Thank You!

Congratulations again to everyone, and a big thanks to everyone who has ever supported me! It means a lot to me, and I’m grateful for people like you!

ThankYou

Mighty No. 9 (PC) Review

Bend It Like Beck

Mighty No. 9 has an extensive history surrounding it. Helmed by Keiji Inafune, one of the original character designers of Capcom’s Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 was intended to be that series’ spiritual successor. Mighty No. 9 raised about $4 million via Kickstarter. Due to a number of delays, the game didn’t release until almost three years after its Kickstarter. Despite everything poured into it, Mighty No. 9 doesn’t quite measure up to the lofty status of Capcom’s iconic blue bomber. Comparisons aside, the game has elements of fun that are unfortunately dampened by below-average level design.

Gameplay

The game stars Beck, the ninth in a set of robots known as the Mighty Numbers. After a virus corrupts the other eight robots, Beck must stop them using his trusty buster. Although it sounds like Mega Man so far, Beck is equipped with a feature that sets him apart. As he attacks enemies, they eventually destabilize. Dashing into them allows Beck to absorb their Xel, which temporarily powers up one of his stats, such as attack or speed. Faster, consecutive dash attacks increase both your power-ups and your score. Technical bonuses such as dashing into midair enemies grant you even more points. His dash is unlimited, providing an adrenaline rush as you blaze through sections of enemies, switching back and forth between attacking and AcXelerating through them. AcXeleration is a fun mechanic that makes Beck much faster and more akin to Mega Man X than his original Mega counterpart.

MightyNo9_PC_01.jpg
Dashing through a stage is satisfying.

While this could have led to a pleasant experience, there is an unfortunate disconnect between Beck’s dash and the level design. Although Beck can dash at any time, the levels limit its effectiveness. There are multiple areas where electric spikes can kill you in one hit. These contrivances are commonplace, appearing on the floor, walls, ceilings, and a variety of moving objects. Although one-hit-kill obstacles were used in the original Mega Man series (also admittedly unfair at times), they feel overused here, as if the developers couldn’t think of any other way to increase the difficulty besides instantly killing the player. Electric spikes are sometimes unexpected, suddenly appearing at the end of a wall following a long dash sequence, almost punishing you for trying to use an intended game mechanic. These non-telegraphed death traps are tenets of poor level design, using unfair instant kills to force players to memorize the layout. There are fairly generous checkpoints throughout that alleviate the frustration, but some of these instadeaths shamelessly cap off long, difficult sections.

Narrow spaces and small platforms can also hurt players trying to dash through stages. When enemies are destabilized, they remain on the screen and still damage you unless you dash into them. However, a combination of electric spikes and tight spaces impairs your ability to dash safely. You may find yourself rushing to your death just so you could finish off an enemy. Although, it is possible to attack a destabilized enemy to death, it is a slow process and is counterproductive to the benefits of AcXeleration. An option to absorb enemies while standing still would have been appreciated. There are also portions where you must dash onto a small floating platform safely, which is easier said than done. When dashing midair, it is difficult to control the trajectory of where you land, which can lead to accidental deaths.

MightyNo9_PC_03.jpg
A ceiling of purple electric spikes line the ceiling. You will likely grow to hate that color after playing this game.

The faulty level design is a shame because there are some interesting, fun ideas implemented throughout. Each of the eight Mighty Number levels, which can be selected in any order a la Mega Man, have a mix of fun sections marred down by some painful parts that bring down its overall quality. For example, Batallion’s stage actually utilizes the dash effectively with conveyer belts and long hallways. However, one of its most annoying segments asks players to destroy an explosive container while riding on a conveyer belt where boxes are constantly falling on you, surrounded by electric spikes.

One interesting level is a highway with moving cars as platforms that you must land on. However, the platforms are quite small, and some “traffic sign” robots fly into you with little warning, causing you to fall onto the deadly asphalt. An infamous level asks you to locate a sniper in a looping White House-like level. Midway through the lengthy search, the game suddenly covers previously safe areas with pesky one-hit-kill electric wires. If you die, you are whisked back to the beginning without a checkpoint. Finally, another level has an instance of two instant death electrical turbines blocking your progress, and you won’t get past it without performing a particular technique perfectly. The effort is clearly there with thematically decent levels, but unpolished level design and a poor sense of flow brings them down.

MightyNo9_PC_02.jpg
This particular section is hard to get through with falling platforms, a high ledge (which you can grab), a spinning fire wheel, and more electric spikes.

There is one consistent positive among the levels: engaging boss fights. Mega Man’s essence is summoned most effectively in arena fights against the eight Mighty Numbers. Every skirmish must be approached in a different way, thanks to the unique abilities of the bosses. However, there is one shared aspect: Mighty Numbers destabilize temporarily after a few hits and must be dashed into or else they will heal that damage. This can become annoying, but it makes great use of the AcXeleration maneuver. Upon performing the final AcXeleration, you defeat the boss, ridding it of the virus and siphoning one of its key moves. As in Mega Man, you can use one boss’ attack to exploit another’s weakness, which can make some problematic bosses more approachable. Even better, you can actually find out what their weaknesses are with a handy “Advice” option while choosing a stage.

Outside of levels, the captured boss abilities, known as ReXelections, are quite useful. Some of the best powers include shooting remote control shots, transforming into a tank, and brandishing a sword. ReXelections recharge over time and as you build up Xel, which encourages players to use them instead of merely storing them for the boss fight. Cycling through powers is a little clunky, but you can set shortcuts and even change the order in which powers appear. As an additional touch that makes characters more likable, the bosses you defeat will help you in other stages, preventing some obstacles from harming you and making the stage just a little easier.

MightyNo9_PC_07.jpg
The Mighty Numbers are brimming with personality, even though they’re written like Saturday morning cartoon characters.

Playtime/Replayability

Mighty No. 9 can take anywhere between 3-6 hours, depending on skill level. You can increase your maximum lives up to 9, but that won’t help you if you can’t get past a tough section. If you run out of lives, you must start over at the beginning of a level. Between lengthy, difficult levels and some bosses that have an instakill ability, lives deplete quickly. Once you defeat your first boss and gain its ability, the rest of the game becomes a bit easier from there. A robot friend, Patch, also offers free items, including instant recovery items for players having trouble. However, the items are random, and the most helpful item, instant recovery, doesn’t always appear.

Since levels can sometimes be dependent on memorization and Beck has a dash technique, speedrunners may actually find the game more enjoyable, provided they don’t get frustrated from running into constant death traps. Otherwise, most people will probably not feel compelled to replay the game if they can even get through the difficult final levels. A challenge mode may entice players to tackle special missions that feature certain conditions, such as removing your attack ability or strict time limits. Some additional online multiplayer modes and boss rush modes can be unlocked as well, which can increase replayability, though they aren’t necessarily fun to go through.

MightyNo9_PC_04.jpg
Nothing says speed like… slippery ice.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics aren’t particularly appealing and resemble an old GameCube game’s output. Some visuals are distracting enough and can actually affect your playthrough. For instance, one level has sudden explosions, signified by crudely animated red blots. These explosions blow up a tower in the background, which can instantly fall onto the stage and kill you. You might not register any of this until it’s too late because of the lack of graphical polish, not to mention any lag you may have in this particular section.

MightyNo9_PC_05.jpg
That’s supposed to be fire in the background.

Character designs are okay, with the standout designs belonging to the Mighty Numbers. Voice acting is also decent, with the Mighty Numbers again providing the most entertaining performances, even though they’re cheesy. Oddly enough, characters’ mouths don’t even move while they talk, making the product feel more rushed than it should.

Mighty No. 9 shares a composer with the original Mega Man, Manami Matsumae. It doesn’t always show because of some uninspired tracks, but there are some nice-sounding techno gems that shouldn’t be overlooked, including the main theme. There is an option for 8-bit music to satiate retro tastes, though no song is as catchy as the original Mega Mans tunes.

MightyNo9_PC_08.jpg
Mighty Nos. 1-9

Conclusion

Mighty No. 9 has semblances of good ideas thrown into levels that are muddled with instant kill spikes, overly difficult platforming sequences, and overall bad level design. It’s a shame because Beck himself is fun to play as, with a clever dash mechanic that can be exhilarating when used well. The Mighty Number bosses are highlights, providing both fun boss fights and entertaining personalities. The abilities they bestow rival some of the best abilities in Mega Man titles. In the end, Mighty No. 9 will likely be remembered as an underwhelming attempt at recreating the spirit of Mega Man. It’s not a horrible game, and those willing to play through the infuriating parts may find the enjoyment hidden within. However, if you’re looking for a challenging but less frustrating platformer, just play Mega Man instead.

Score: 6/10

What are your thoughts on Mighty No. 9? Did you back its Kickstarter, and if so how are your feelings of the finished product? What are your comparisons between Mighty No. 9 and the Mega Man series? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

Note: I was not a backer of the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter, but i did receive a free code from a generous backer. The Steam version was played for this review.

This review was posted on Darkstation. Please find the article here.