Mekabolt is the latest release from Ratalaika. It just happens to be the debut title of pixel artist and regular contributor to other games somepx. The titular mekabolt is a miracle device that disables mechanical objects, some permanently, others on a strictly temporary basis. The opening spiel of the game is something about batteries being needed for the mekabolt itself. At any rate it’s secondary to getting down to the task at hand.
What follows is a romp through various levels, not dissimilar to another Ratalaika/somepx game from just the other week, Gravity Duck. The menus are essentially the same, clearly built on the same framework. But none the worse for it. Mekabolt could have lapsed into generic blandness but somehow doesn’t. Your character is meant to be a lady, but we’re getting more of a latter-day Gary Numan vibe. Go look him up. It’s uncanny.
The level design is broadly familiar to that from Gravity Duck, based on a similar tileset layout. Graphically different due to our man from Italy’s sterling work. Along with environmental hazards including falling rocks, cacti and burning hot lava, you’ll find your progress impeded by various enemies you can zap with the mekabolt gun.
You’ll face a variety of enemies beginning with basic guys that run left and right, easy enough. Next up there’s slug throwers that prove more taxing than they ought to be. Additional enemies include flying platforms you can climb on, and the same again with spikes that make for instant death if you jump on them while they’re awake. They only stay inanimate for a short time after a mekabolt zap so timing your jumps to the second is needed to progress.
You can shove ground based enemies while they remain inert, useful for jumping to previously unreachable platforms. Or in the case of the fan mechs, useful for blowing you over otherwise impassible obstacles. You can also push some blocks by shooting them, they don’t fight back thankfully.
That’s not to say it’s difficult, ’cause barring a few rage spikes, you’re looking at a fairly typical Rata-rinse. We say rage spikes mainly due to one annoying mechanical opponent you’ll face regularly in the opening act. Innocuous enough in isolation, but in the case of this sleep deprived reviewer, it got a bit much. Especially when combined with having to repeat the same level over and again, due to mistiming a jump late on and dying to one of their projectiles. Were it not for the cost of a replacement Dualshock 4, we’d probably have seen our controller flying across the room. As we said, sleep deprived rage.
Some reasonable environmental puzzles come into play with your needing to use the abilities of the enemies you generally have to dodge otherwise, notably the spikes and fireballs from fixed turrets. You can also zap some items such as cacti to create short-term platforms to aid your progress. Sometimes you’ll negotiate a tricky section only to pause and get nobbled by an otherwise retracted spike that’ll appear from beneath the ground. You feel like you’re being trolled a little sometimes.
It’s all well and good with the cute design and and generally forgiving gameplay, but we can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed due to the speed we got done. Even with the harder levels here, this feels like little more than an itch.io concept fleshed out. It’s alright but the relative lack of challenge on display and the fact we had platinums on both PS4 and Vita within the space of a few hours. It didn’t take us long to polish off the remaining levels either.
Mekabolt is alright, just alright. We enjoyed ourselves for the most part but it’s all over very quickly. The Vita port helps add value to the package, assuming you have access to one too.
+ Interesting mechanic of freezing enemies
+ PS4 and Vita crossbuy is good value
- Some pernickety design makes for difficulty spikes
- Slight package due to relative lack of challenge otherwise