Upon viewing the trailer, I thought this would be an appropriate game to play with my eldest, but a quick screenshot sent over by Chris made me immediately re-evaluate my parenting skills. MechaNika is not for kids. Not remotely. Shame on you Mango Protocol for using such appealing visuals for the young ‘uns.
Alarm bells should have been ringing anyway when the promotional material claims that the protagonist Nika, a 7-year-old girl, tops up her cognac with cocoa. Surely a bit of blackcurrant would be better than cocoa? Wait, I think I’ve got this the wrong way around. Note to self; check the girls’ lunchboxes in the morning.
Nika is understandably fed up with life. Her teacher is too busy on her phone to educate the kids, her brother only interested in playing video games like Duty Call. Dad merely welds stuff most of the time, and the mum is a slave to the telly. Rather than follow the crowd and draw tits on a fish with her best crayons, Nika instead vows to build a mech to kill everyone. There’s no discretion in it – she means it. You’d then think that you haven’t paid the electricity bill as it then gets even darker.
MechaNika is a point and click adventure. Yes, I know that isn’t the cool genre to play, but it’s arguably my favourite – with the likes of Grim Fandango and the Leisure Suit Larry series being my cup of tea. Or cognac. MechaNika plays the best way one of these adventures can play on a controller as the cursor is a bit sluggish. No fault of the game, it just doesn’t translate to consoles as well as a mouse does on a ‘puter. The world in which Nika occupies is bittersweet – cute graphics with a dark undertone. We could get all serious now and talk about representation, juxtaposition and connotations, but as the game celebrates jazz pamphlets and goat grinding, I think we’ll keep it simple. If you’re reading into this thinking that sounds gross, you’re on the right path of what I was getting at.
The point of the game is to collect the appropriate parts to build your mech of doom to wipe out everything Nika hates. Everything from a circular saw to ignition system. Most of it ends up being make do stuff, but slightly more coherent than some of the illogical point and click adventures from yesteryear. Nika interacts with objects and people, usually having two options. One, to look at something – giving a brief description. Second, to engage in conversation or to use/pick up an item. I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the conversation as you can literally go through and say anything and everything, but it doesn’t have any effect on the story. You literally just go through each and every line which ensures you cover all options. The dialogue is good though if a little short.
As for Nika, she’s brill. She’s isn’t a patronising stereotype of what a 7-year-old would be, and aside from the mech plans and cognac, she’s pretty level headed and speaks a lot of sense. Anyone who has a poster of Tesla in their room, or Java books on the shelf would have me signposting them to Nerdville, but Nika is cool. Not that she’s someone you could hang out with. She’s 7. That would be another game in the Psychotic Adventures. What am I talking about? It appears that MechaNika is one cog in a series of games being released. I only found this out from visiting the website to see that Agatha’s Knife (a character you meet early on in the game) is already out, with Colossos Down coming soon. Another reference within MechaNika.
My biggest criticism of the game is the abrupt ending. It took me a couple of hours to finish this game, and when going back to get the platinum trophy, it took even less. Obviously. I wasn’t totally invested in the story, but enough to want a lot more. Nika is a great character, and I enjoyed exploring the town she lives in and the dialogue. It reminds me a little of the South Park games such as The Fractured But Whole, only without the RPG battle elements. I’m for expanding this universe, but it would be good to have some indication that this was the first in a series. I’ve since read elsewhere that the developers have a whole series planned but didn’t advertise this in fear that people would expect all the games to be point and click. They’re not. Nevertheless, maybe a title screen via the menu you advertising this – I don’t know. I just felt a little flat when it finished.
MechaNika kind of plays like the Kirby of point and clicks – though not for children. It’s very straightforward and somewhat refreshing in that puzzles are logical. Some of the challenges, such as the questions you are asked is a 50-50 as they refer to pop culture. Early in the game, I got it wrong when asked about some robot thing I knew nothing about. Later on, there were questions about some adolescent turtles, which was like asking me how to spell my name. I might night to phone a friend on that one. However, there was one particular puzzle at the butcher’s that had me. I won’t give it away – it was just totally out of place, so I needed a hint. How do you get hints? Aside from Wikipedia, Nika takes a swig from her flask and is given a hint. I didn’t think anything wrong with this, other than underage drinking, but if you want to get the platinum, you can’t use hints. Bugger.
We’ve established that the presentation is cute. While quite crude in some respects, I very much liked the art style. I wasn’t a fan of the font used in the game at all, and I think the developers knew this would split people down the middle. So, after a quick introduction, you can switch between two options. I’m more for readability than aesthetics (plus I’m a font whore – don’t ask), so the default one had to go. In the options, you can also mute the music if you choose. It is repetitive, and because there are no sound effects, you become quite aware of it. I actually quite liked it to be honest, and it suited the presentation.
I’m not so sure where they were going with MechaNika. There’s a little ‘fourth wall’ sequence where it’s mentioned that this is the developer’s first game. If I were them, I’d be pretty proud of myself as it’s a good start to a growing library. For me though the tone was a bit sporadic. At one point, we have a few interesting observations on what it’s like to be a kid in modern times, then it shifts to humans boning goats. There are definite adult themes, but I don’t know who the target audience is. I didn’t find the game offensive or controversial, but there was one part that didn’t sit well with me and felt a bit irrelevant to the story. I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or sad – I just felt a bit awkward. That’s puberty for you.
Apart from unlocking all the trophies (I got all of them almost on the first playthrough, but kind of got penalised for using a hint), there’s not much replay value. In fact, I won’t come back and play this again. That isn’t to say it’s a bad game, it’s just too short. Not being greedy or anything, but this would have benefitted as a collection piece. Then again, not all of the ‘episodes’ are out yet, so I understand this. I’m a little bit torn on my opinion of it. I’m like a Disney princess and see good in everything – and this is good, I just feel a little let down by the duration and perhaps the game’s true identity.
MechaNika PS4 Review
- Overall - Good - 6/106/10
If you enjoy point and click adventures with a few puzzles here and there, this fulfills those 'needs'. But, with a playthrough that lasts the duration of the average Marvel film, I felt a little disappointed. I will be interested in playing future stories in the Psychotic Universe but would prefer the option to play all of the stories in one go.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.