By Drew D. / March 28th, 2019
|Original Release Date||Dec 11th, 2018|
|Age Rating||Unpatched: Mature
When the name Metroid comes up, for many of us, it elicits a near immediate response of joy. The style, the perfection of gameplay, and quality it consistently carries has allowed Metroid to ascend from game series to its own genre in the gaming industry. I applaud those developers willing to challenge such a genre, as I’m sure they will tell you the difficulty of replicating that magic. Maytroid is one attempt, packaging itself as a Metroid styled game but ending up not quite what one would expect.
Maytroid centers around our heroine May, an individual with a peculiar ability to enter alternate realms or realities. Her purpose is a personal one; to find her long lost mother. As she arrives in one particular realm, she is met by Ao, a woman who has been imprisoned in this realm. According to the “Book,” Ao is a soulless murderer whom May wants absolutely nothing to do with. Yet, Ao is able to telepathically communicate with May. With this killer loose in this shared space, May’s priority switches to survival and an immediate search for the exit from this realm.
The purpose of any story is to intrigue its audience and to do so successfully, a story needs immersion. Immersion, in the form of strong narrative and character development, can provide a wealth of depth and establish emotional connections between game and player. Unfortunately, in regards to story, Maytroid fails at this. The story is too vague, to the point of frustration. May arrives in this alternate realm and as we just arrive, her encompassing goal is to find the exit. As to how she got there in the first place, that’s never explained. It’s hinted at that the process of entering alternate realms requires sleep, with the mention of tranquilizers, so perhaps a method similar to the ones used in the movie Inception. With no other details, even making this assumption is a bit of a stretch. It’s also mentioned that the “Book” is a sort of guide for May and her colleagues as to how to go about entering realms, but other than the mere mention, we get nothing else. Where did the “Book” come from and how did they come to possess it? If this plot element has such supposed importance, details should be given.
Another example of this lack of depth, and my biggest gripe, is the appendage on May’s arm. Rather than an arm cannon, May has this monstrous growth on her arm that allows her to shoot projectiles and slash with a blade-like weapon. Again, what it is, where its origins are, how May came to have it; none is explained nor ever even touched upon. To say there are plot holes is an understatement, and there are no real or satisfying resolutions or explanations at endgame. Perhaps there’s even a connection to PixelGreeds’ other games, as another character seems to have a similar appendage, but zero direct references are made and it could just be a recycling of sprite assets. The few plot details we do get feel tangential, as they are thrown at you during play and again, are never fully fleshed out or resolved. If you bother to introduce new topics or plot points, those thoughts need to be completed. Words aren’t even necessary, as CGs, gameplay, or sprite based cutscenes would have worked wonders here. But it was not meant to be, for even after finishing the game, we are left in the dark.
As it seems like the plot was more an afterthought, character development fares better. Although we never learn much about May, we do find out that she is a strong, driven, and compassionate woman. She cares for her sister Anna, who is searching within a different realm for May’s sake, and May’s thoughts return to Anna often. We also see May demonstrate emotional turmoil, such as hesitation and doubt as Ao’s history is unveiled. May’s colleague Ron also has some development, acting as the go-between for May and Ao, while occasionally providing comedic relief. There are some charming moments of banter among the three and there are hints of a deeper emotional struggle within May as well. It’s a great foundation to build on, but none of the characters or their interactions are developed to the point for us to genuinely care for them. It’s just too little detail for us to really connect with these characters, which is especially unfortunate in regards to May because she seems to have more within her than what’s conveyed to us.
Moving on to gameplay, one would expect similarities to the 2D Metroids given the game’s name. Well, not quite. Whereas the Metroid series is a perfect blend of shooter action, exploration, and platformer, Maytroid is a platformer at its core with action used as a mechanic to make the platforming more challenging. Broken into individual rooms that make up the world map, essentially the game is a process of making it from one end of a room to another, repeating this process to reach bosses and the eventual final boss. The shooting and action elements are only there to impede your trek, rather than to add genuine combat and the excitement that comes from it. Even as the purpose is simply to cross each room, there isn’t much of a puzzle aspect either, as there are few rooms that utilize the hitting of buttons or switches to open the way. It all boils down to surviving every room.
Due to this fact that platforming, or survival, is the key to this game, we do get to see some interesting mechanics implemented. For one, May acts similar to Samus and Mega Man in her movements. May can shoot, slash, wall jump, slide, dash, and down-kick. But, no multi-directional shooting and you can’t slowly slide down walls. Dashing allows for momentary invincibility on easy and normal difficulties and down-kicks allow May to damage enemies and pass through blue lasers, a hazard that is an instant death should she touch them. May also has a technique called Lifesteal, present in all but the hardest difficulty, in which May’s health is restored simply by eliminating enemies. May also gains a few new abilities during play. For one, she can turn into a spirit and fly around hazards for a limited time. It’s up to you to figure things out though, as the game fails to ever explain new skills; no descriptions at all. The hints mentioned on the game’s Steam discussion boards to address this very issue would have been better placed in-game.
Fortunately, especially with the difficulty of some rooms and the near tedious placement of some enemies, May regains all her health when entering a new room. Also, if you are stuck or make a mistake within a room, there is a quick reset that allows you to start the room over with just a button press. Because of the difficulty of many of the rooms, as well as the need to learn specific pattern and sequences of working through them, you will be dying often. Yet dying has zero consequences, so there’s no penalty as you figure out more complex rooms, as well as fight against the four bosses of the game. Having said that, tedium and frustration can be an issue, but I feel that nothing was overly problematic to the point of giving up. With practice and a bit of luck, every challenge is manageable.
I do wish to say that fans of the Metroid genre may not appreciate the heavy emphasis on platforming while action takes a back seat. This is especially true if surviving specific rooms means stopping, figuring out the steps to safely proceed, and then finally moving, instead of the classic blend of platforming without hesitation and fighting your way through. Also, this is a very straightforward game, with zero exploration or reward for it. And, the game world is surprising small. What I thought was the map layout for the first zone or section, again expecting grand, Metroid-like areas, is actually the entire world map, making this game far smaller and shorter than I had first thought. These key points of Metroid are nonexistent here. Simply put, going into Maytroid expecting a Metroid experience is a mistake. But that doesn’t mean Maytroid doesn’t have enjoyment to offer. Solving each room and making your way through can feel rewarding, especially the more difficult ones. The same is true for defeating bosses. They all start tediously and feel overpowered, but with enough determination, those eventual victories feel pretty damn great. There’s definitely fun to be had here, just remember this is a more unique experience than what the game title suggests.
Finally, one gameplay issue that stood out for me was in regards to the controls and their customization. If you choose to play on a keyboard, you have the option to customize most of your controls. I appreciate having this option, but the one glaring problem with this is the need to remap all of your buttons if you want to change one assignment. I initially had my jump mapped to D, but wanted it changed to C (I use the arrow keys to move), so to make this change, I had to remap everything. Another gripe I had was that the one thing you can’t customize is the menu/map button. Not the biggest problem, but I would have favored using the Enter button over the Esc button to bring up the map/ menu. Customization, however, is a worse affair if you plan to use a controller. While there is controller support, there is zero customization without the use of third-party button mapping software. This is a major problem, given the need for the precision and timing necessary to make it through each room. Never underestimate the importance nor the practice of customizable controls. Now, is its lack game breaking? No. Yet it does allude to a developer’s willingness to accommodate their players. We don’t all game the same way, so customization may make a critical difference for some players and the lack of it here is disappointing.
Now we move on to Maytroid’s aesthetics, which have their own issues; ones I never expected upon my review of this game. We’ll start with the aesthetic strengths, mainly the colorful and detailed 16-bit graphics and style reminiscent of the Super Nintendo styles used for Super Metroid. The graphics and sprite work capture that classic magic perfectly. I also like the portrait art and its variations, as the faces change with the tones of the dialogue. It’s a small touch, but it gives much needed tone and mood to these brief snippets of story. I wished to have seen more of this kind of work in-game, as it could have boosted the game’s weaker elements. As for the music, the soundtrack is equally remarkable. The melodies are strong and fitting for their environments. The music style matches well with the overall story and plot tones, emphasizing both impressively. I only wish there was more of it, as the number of tracks seems light, even for such a short game.
Now the big issue; the developer decided to include an ecchi CG gallery. What on earth was the thought process here? Sex for its own sake is misplaced here and this ecchi gallery is completely unnecessary. Had this been a mature game to begin with, in which the CGs complimented or associated with the characters, their dialogue, actions, or the plot, then I would understand. Here though, it adds absolutely nothing to the overall experience and needlessly limits the game to mature players. I would even say it hurt my immersion and investment in May and Ao’s characters, as the depictions of these characters in the gallery sharply clash with their supposed personalities. Sure, these characters are capable of sex, kink, and personal fetishes, but the contrast between sex and characterization here is misleading at best to demeaning at worst. Then there’s the available uncensoring patch that takes the gallery from ecchi to hentai and makes the game 18+ only. An all-ages gallery or its complete exclusion would have made the game available to a far wider audience, but instead the developers limited their potential market with such a senseless inclusion. It’s a shame because, as I mentioned, the artistic talent is there and having worthwhile CG work integrated into the gameplay would have helped a game that desperately needs the help.
Maytroid has the makings of a great game, but far too many flaws and shortcomings muddle the overall quality. It has a solid gameplay foundation to build upon, and I do hope something more comes from it in the future. Also, I don’t normally comment on how a game is presented for sale on Steam or otherwise, but I’m adding it so that no one here is discouraged by the paltry presentation. This game’s description is a real disservice to itself, as we, as consumers, indeed judge by presentation. The lewd gallery and its h-game vibe do the game zero favors as well. Yet the game really is better than all of that. There is fun to be had and there are moments of genuine brilliance. Overall, on normal difficulty, the game will take less than 10 hours to complete, even if you intentionally stretch things out. Yet for only $2 or the developer’s habit of offering free key codes often, it’s hard to argue against trying this game, particularly for those that enjoy platformers. Pure potential marred by an incomplete plot, mature content, and at times, unpolished gameplay, Maytroid could have been a true hidden gem.
Review copy provided by developer.
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