Launching in Early Access in 2020, Metal Unit- made by JellySnow Studios- tells a story of survival. A cult classic in the making for sure; it currently has “Very Positive” rating on Steam. A futuristic rouge-lite game with pixel graphics and fast paced gameplay, there is a lot of fun to be had for a good while.
Consequently, there are a fair number of bugs and issues with progression that mar this new IP. After putting in a fair amount of gameplay and then some, I found that I still enjoyed it overall. Here’s our review of Metal Unit.
Developer: JellySnow Studios
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: January 27, 2021
Price: $14.99 USD
In the future, alien robots and monsters start attacking Earth with means of invasion. Your means of taking back the planet is the M-Unit suit, which is capable of abilities and weapon attachments, piloted by Joanna. Defeating enemies through various locations on Earth will lead you to learn more about humanity’s past, and also get revenge.
Getting into action, you are also burdened with a mission to stop your sister, who has betrayed Earth. Local people in the city give you scornful, worried speech about if you may turn next, forcing you to prove yourself. Throughout the journey to hold off evil forces, you meet traveling merchants, townsfolk, and other soldiers.
The story is a very big build up with little pay off. When you do get hints of story, the characters have normal interactions, albeit kind of cliché. Some characters when dumping exposition have strange in-fighting that they want to engage with; it’s all very strange. Unfortunately, it falls into being an OK story at best.
The gameplay loop is like other rouge-lite games, where you can retain some items after death. You gather weapons, upgrades, potions, and currency from defeating enemies and opening chests through the stage. Sometimes, traveling vendors will appear with a limited selection to choose from.
The stages are presented in a random order, but typically feature a camp to restore health and buy items in the same length. Some stages have portions of platforming, which conflicts a bit with its upgrade system built for speed. The M-Unit, Joanna, and Falcon (another robot companion) can receive permanent upgrades from Crystal Cores, found in levels and received upon death.
Gold, earned from defeating enemies, is also used to buy 4 random items at a time from shops. Most items will be replacements or upgrades/effects for your inventory. Consisting of 4 different usable weapons at a time, you can also equip passive abilities or equipment to aid.
Items are also classified on the common to legendary scale. Additionally, you can use synthesis to roll for better items, or in some cases make stronger potions.
The mechanics are simple enough, but seem overly complicated when it comes to crafting, in the sense of never having the items required. Some upgrades are only useful in certain levels, and makes Metal Unit artificially difficult in the event you don’t find them useful. Mechanics and their possible upgrades are soured by their convolution, and are stressful more than helpful.
Miss-matched visuals are a tad bit jarring, and doesn’t really align with the pixel graphics. While characters and enemies are easy enough to tell apart due to their level of detail, most NPCs (and in some cases shopkeepers) are almost indistinguishable from each other. Only in certain areas do some of them stand out, and other vendors have absolutely unique designs.
The places you’ll travel to are atmospheric, and do have a great parallax effect to compliment the movement. Some areas, like in the forest where sunlight peeks through, makes it more immersive even for a pixel game. Meanwhile in other locations, it can look dull and never really stand out.
Additionally there are some cute waifus in the game, and they have a great art direction. Easily the best part is seeing all of them throughout Metal Unit, and having dialogue to accommodate. While the graphics aren’t bad, it’s still a mixed bag of what you may get in certain locations.
Very interestingly, I enjoyed and hated things about the sound effects. Most of the sounds that played were very stock-like; some sounding like they were from cartoons oddly enough. Other sounds however had some realistic tones, like rocks crumbling after defeating a stone enemy.
Music is loud, proud, and not a major issue. It’s fast paced nature most of the time matches the game, and is something to get into the mood for. Think of the music as a soundtrack to the future, while you fight hordes of enemies in the wilderness.
Surprisingly, there is voice over in Metal Unit, but it’s very minuscule. It’s not in the parts where you would expect them, but during combat you will hear Joanna speaking. It’s a small touch. Nothing bewildering to hear, and completely normal.
Your first playthrough, if it’s anything like mine, is fairly standard and you’ll excel. After you die the first time, the game stays at a constant difficulty. Some elements are broken however, where you acquire a power or upgrade, and it won’t be active until you restart the game. There are many things to like about Metal Unit, but one too many things to dislike.
Metal Unit is an indie title with a great deal of love put into it, and it’s easy to tell. However, there are glaring issues that need to be addressed and dealt with swiftly for longevity. I didn’t hate playing it, but I wish there was fine tuning in some areas.
Metal Unit was reviewed on Windows PC using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.