Platform: Steam Early Access (£7.99)
Developer: Wild Factor
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Humans are pretty great, right? Top of the food chain, master of all we survey. We reckon that we're the pinnacle of evolution, but I think I can do better.
Laser eyes would be a start, as would better productivity, improved strength and perhaps rocket launchers instead of arms. At least, that's the plan and premise of Freaking Meatbags, which tasks us as a robot janitor tasked with stripmining a solar system while keeping the squishy human settlers alive. Because our boss' wife thinks they're cute.
Those poor meatbags don't stand a chance against the hordes of wild robots that roam and pillage throughout the hostile planets, but might make for a loyal free workforce... after a little nightmarish DNA slicing and brain slug implantation for good measure.
Freaking Meatbags initially resembles a fast-paced and hectic fusion of RTS and tower defence gameplay. You'll start out on a relatively compact map with the bare-bones of a base and a handful of nearby humans, who're typically rather lazy yet curious and pleased to see you, following commands to the best of their limited abilities. Silly meatbags. You'll quickly put them to work mining resources -- both building materials and gold required to purchase persistent upgrades -- then erect some defences against an oncoming robotic onslaught.
Some walls here, a machine gun tower there, a little lightning perhaps... Freaking Meatbags is familiar yet engaging stuff. It's half of the RTS experience, base building by day and desperate defence by night, challenging you to turn turtle as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, pilotable machine gun drones let you hop into the action yourself, protecting your territory like a twinstick shooter. The retro art style manages to just about stand out due to its contrasting colour palette and adorable sprite designs, but arguably could do with a little more detail and foreground elements to break up vast swathes of identical backgrounds.
And then, not before time, we come to those freaking meatbags.
Some humans are born better than others. Maybe they're skilled at mining a specific resource. All of them deserve brain slugs to turn their slacking into slack-jawed total obedience. But a handy DNA-splicing machine is on hand to create Human v.2.0, bringing out the best in both participants.
Two humans produce a hybrid that carries across and amplifies common traits (interestingly, both subjects survive the procedure themselves), meaning that creating a flock of competent miners and prospectors is quick and relatively painless. It's infinitely more fun to sling an indigenous alien organism into the mix, though, who'll transfer one of their more outlandish physical traits to the resulting offspring. Aliens all have their own personality and specific quirk - whether laser beams or rocket launchers -- which beefs up your workforce as significantly as you'd expect. Your multifunctional HQ spaceship has room for a few meatbags in the hold, meaning that you can take your favourite splicers with you to other planets or revisit worlds for extra currency.
To be perfectly honest, Freaking Meatbags is currently feeling tight and tasty on a mechanical level, but Wild Factor's major goal now has to be adding more meaningful content. More varieties of alien DNA for starters, several orders of magnitude more. More stages, more structures, more options to spend all that gold on. More. More! The foundations are laid but the structure is skeletal; currently paling into comparison next to the likes of Revenge Of The Titans, but that's what early access is for.
Except that the promised content seems to be rather disappointing to say the least. Just two new meatbag types? Four new planets -- four?! The map editor should allow for a wealth of UGC, but if it's robust and simple, I rather suspect that Wild Factor will need to add a lot more curated content of their own to make Freaking Meatbags as brilliant as its name and premise.