Platform: PC (£9.99)
Developer: Reptile Games
Armored Core, Mega-Man and Super Smash Bros. are all lovely things, so it stands to reason that a mash-up should be utterly brilliant. At least, Reptile Games hopes so, since they've attempted to marry the best bits of each franchise into a single inexpensive package. Megabyte Punch raised a few interested eyebrows when it featured in a handful of pay what you want deals during its alpha phase, but now that the project has fully released against August's big hitters, it's time to find out whether this gorgeous indie proposition deserves your time and attention. Not to mention your money.
At its core, Megabyte Punch is built around the Super Smash Bros. formula. From a side-scrolling perspective, you'll wail on an army of robotic foes with an array of powerful attacks, accruing percentage-based damage that makes it easier to smash them into walls or out of level bounds. It's close enough to be called a 'clone,' but unlike the embarrassment of lazy knock-offs out there, Reptile Games have used these familiar mechanics as a foundation for a game with its own unique identity.
Packing a strong singleplayer campaign in expansive levels, insane levels of character customisation and all the cel-shaded robot carnage you can safely handle, Megabyte Punch plays by its own rules, and gives us a seriously satisfying brawling fix whether played solo or crammed onto a couch with a crowd of hooting reprobates.
As mentioned, the core side-scrolling gameplay takes inspiration from Nintendo's flagship brawler. Empowered with a range of melee attacks, a limited shield block, wall jumps, aerial moves and ranged abilities, you'll take on hordes of robotic foes with your own cybernetic saviour, defending your hometown from two deadly factions. Controls are instantly responsive, giving you the speed and twitch you'll need to fend off multiple opponents and increase their damage percentage enough to blast them into walls and ceilings. At which point, they'll smash through the destructible scenery in a shower of blocks and sparks, totally deforming the stage in the process. "Satisfying" doesn't do it justice.
Combat is therefore frantic yet tactical, thanks in part to the need to balance all-out aggression and careful use of your shield, brought to vivid life by a gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic and crunchy chiptune accompaniment. More importantly: it's also fantastic fun.
Intimate boss stages most heavily resemble classic Super Smash Bros. fare, pitting you against a powerful opponent in hectic one-on-one duels in a bid to knock them into orbit. A simple 'clone' would have stopped there, but Megabyte Punch makes these sections just small part of a much more varied experience. The lengthy singleplayer campaign offers sprawling multi-path levels to explore, rammed to the gills with collectibles and legions of robotic adversaries to brutalise.
The choice of whether to blast through to the boss as quickly as possible or spend your time ferreting out every nook and cranny is entirely yours, and makes Nintendo's Subspace Emissary mode look like amateur hour in comparison. Between missions, you'll speed your downtime in your hometown, engaging in some limited exploration and a little banter with the locals, tying the game together nicely.
A staggering degree of meaningful customisation options seals the deal. Defeating enemies often rewards you with parts to equip, including arms, legs, hips or torsos, most of which grant unique stat boosts or active abilities. Whether you want to smash through scenery with powerful drill arms, keep foes at bay with ranged blasts, thwart enemies with deployable walls or gain height through boosts, there's a component or five waiting for you - all of which can be equipped mid-level using a radial loadout menu. There's scope to create all manner of custom builds to compliment your playstyle or suit the situation at hand, featuring over 150 individually-modelled parts in all. Not including colour schemes hidden in tricky places throughout the stages. Fans of Armored Core will be well away here.
In terms of flaws, I'm compelled to nitpick rather than drop the proverbial hammer. Beyond a handful of forgiveable dialogue spelling mistakes and some graphical quirks in the blocky background scenery, the town hub is confusingly designed and larger than it needs to be. Your house, from which you'll equip parts between missions, features three practically identical terminals that do very different things, and the in-game interface could use a little fine-tuning across the board (both in terms of the HUD and in-game menus). Not being told what a part does in the recycle menu is aggravating if not potentially dangerous. All minor irritations as opposed to dealbreakers, mind you.
As you'd expect from a sidescrolling brawler, multiplayer brings its own flavour. The campaign can be played cooperatively in splitscreen, with each player taking a corner and creating their own mechanical monstrosities. It's very difficult to make out if you're playing on a monitor, however, and is arguably much less enjoyable than the versus mode. Taking on other players in small well-tooled arenas is a perfect way of testing out your builds, evoking the fun we used to have back in the day with old-school brawlers and the Super Smash Bros series.
I seldom mark down games for not featuring online multiplayer (in fact, I've only done so once in three years), but it would have tipped the balance here. Naturally playing with friends in the same room (or the same sofa) is the most rewarding way to experience Megabyte Punch, but you'll only make the most of it if your rig is connected to a decent-sized living room telly with multiple controllers, which still isn't particularly common amongst the majority of PC gamers. Not being able to hop online and test your mettle (and builds) against other players feels like a missing limb, and though games of this size tend to have trouble filling their servers, the option would have been very welcome indeed.
Considering the price and quality of the experience, though, I'm not all that concerned. Megabyte Punch is fun enough to warrant a wholehearted recommendation - and an immediate one if you frequently get together for local multiplayer sessions.
- Responsive platform brawling with addictive character customisation
- Enjoyable cooperative and competitive local multiplayer
- Gorgeous cel-shaded visuals and toe-tapping, brain-worming soundtrack
- Town and interface layout is a little confusing
- Online multiplayer would have been nice considering the PC-only launch
- A few rough edges
The Short Version: Megabyte Punch makes old-school brawling feel fresh and new with its vibrant visuals, hectic action and supremely versatile upgrade system. An absolute blast solo, with friends or against them.