When we looked at Mekazoo back at EGX Rezzed, we described it as a game “…well worth keeping an eye out for.” It’s certainly got a novel concept for a 2.5D platformer with character swapping mechanics that are cleverly geared toward local multiplayer, but in a world where indie platformers are commonplace, is this enough to help it stand out?
You start the game as an armadillo, curling up into a ball as it rolls through the world. Pressing the action button builds up energy to allow the armadillo to speed up and squash enemies in its path, and it’s here that the game’s fast-paced action comes to the fore. It can be rather satisfying, as long as the armadillo is heading in the direction you expect it to when you start to boost, which is something that’s trickier that it sounds.
However, it’s long before you gain the ability to change form, and this is the crux of Mekazoo’s gameplay. The frog allows players to use its tongue to latch onto enemies and switches, while the wallaby can stomp on the ground to bounce higher, the bear can dig through certain walls or climb others, and the pelican can fly. You’re regularly switching between two forms as you navigate through the levels, and it works well for the most part.
You don’t get these forms all at once – they’re unlocked after beating bosses – but you’ll always have two forms to switch between. This adds complexity in that you’ll need to work out how to navigate using the tools at hand, rather than the most ideal one, which adds some much needed problem solving to the otherwise simple gameplay. Dying only sends you back to a previous checkpoint, so there’s not much pressure to survive.
Each world has three levels, each with five specific objectives: completing the level, beating a par time, killing all of a certain enemy, not dying, and finding the hidden switch. Levels may seem disjointed at first but after a couple of runs through each of them, the level design’s branches become far clearer. It’s a similar design choice that governed the 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games and it still works nicely here.
Challenge doesn’t really come in the levels themselves, but in achieving the goals within them. As such I found there were times the game gated me heavily because I didn’t get enough of the cog medals as I played. Sadly the crystals don’t have as much importance in the progression, despite being easier to find. There are also challenge levels which put you in various unique situations in order to obtain more medals, which although brief, are well worth experiencing.
Mekazoo’s key selling point seems to be how it handles the drop-in/drop-out local cooperative gameplay. At a press of a button, a player can take over a particular avatar in order to navigate the puzzles. It’s as chaotic as it sounds and if you enjoyed arguing with your friends in Overcooked this year, there’s a similar vibe with this game, albeit at a lower player count. A lack of online play will always be an issue to bring up, but it feels less essential here.
Having said that, the controls are mildly finicky with a keyboard, not so much because of the button placement, but more that this didn’t feel like it was designed with keyboards in mind. Having a couple of gamepads to hand or playing on console will be the ideal way to play the game.
To describe the visuals as busy would be an understatement. Every detail has an element of neon lighting that was initially an assault on the eyes, to be frank. Once I’d become accustomed to the flashing lights though, there was a lot to love about how the game is designed and the worlds you navigate. Texture quality does suffer a little when the camera zooms in, but from a distance this game is a looker.
All of this is accompanied by an absolutely stellar soundtrack, mixing the quasi-electonic melodies with slight jazzy overtones to lend the game a hugely appealing backdrop. If anything, it’s a throwback to how music in videogames used to be created with the tune matching how the game feels to play, and this works so incredibly well.
Mekazoo is a familiar platforming experience that’s immensely fun. Zooming through the levels is a good time on your own, but really the game is designed for playing with a friend next to you. If you’re looking for an evening or two’s worth of entertainment for platformer fans, then Mekazoo is well worth the price of admission.
Version Tested: PC