This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mighty No. 9.
Mighty No. 9 is a retro-style platformer developed by the creator of Mega Man and which was Kickstarted by the fans, among whom I do not count myself because I didn't even play Mighty No. 1 through Mighty No. 8. And my goodness, this game seems to have pissed in a lot of people's hand sanitizer. The word 'mismanaged' has been floating around a lot, but then, this is the rule more than the exception with popular Kickstarted projects. Say what you like about big publishers, but at least their drones have demonstrated a degree of professionalism before they can donate their souls to the mothership, whereas the only guarantee with a Kickstarter project is that lots of people want it, or at least claim to want it.
In my experience, most people don't really know what they want. A lot of people said they wanted Britain to leave the EU but were quickly rethinking their position after the country was taken over by a character from Sesame Street and the value of the Pound dropped like a conservative prime minister's trousers at a pig farm. Between Mighty No. 9 and Broken Age, people really need to stop massively overfunding these things, 'cause you don't keep a life raft afloat by throwing huge bags of coins at it.
Personally, I've never taken an interest in behind-the-scenes drama when the end product is all that matters, so you can be assured of an unbiased review because I'm a stingy asshole who wouldn't Kickstart his dad's life support machine. And I'm not huge on Mega Man, but I do like a nice, hard game 'cause mother used to make me self-flagellate with a spiked paddle every time I had a sinful erection and now it's the only way I can get off.
In a cartoony sci-fi world, just barely legally distinct from that of Astro Boy, a caste of sentient domestic and industrial robots have all been equipped with destructive weaponry out of some slightly misguided application of the Second Amendment. All of them suddenly malfunction for mysterious reasons and turn against humanity, requiring the one remaining non-evil robot, Beck, to defeat them all and inject them with personality repellent so that they can go back to being unpaid slaves for the decadent and ungrateful human race. Beck has a lady robot friend named Call. Beck and call, you see, where in Mega Man they're called Rock and Roll. An intentional juxtaposition, perhaps, between the language of submission and a musical genre associated with youthful defiance? No, of course it fucking isn't. It's a gossamer-thin pretense of being a distinct entity from the Mega Man franchise which the game can barely summon the effort to hold up.
I quickly found myself wondering what people find so offensive about Revolution No. 9. Yes, it has the graphics of a high-end PS1-era game and all the characters have the look of Kinder Surprise toys and about half the animation, but the last few Mega Man games were made with NES graphics. So the fan base clearly care even less about technological relevance than they do about laundering their T-shirts.
I'd still say that no game these days has any excuse for having a lives system, because I place a clear distinction between a game that supplies an enjoyable meaty challenge, and one that merely fucks the player about and forcing me to restart the whole level from scratch because I died 3 times to an unreasonable pixel-perfect instant-death jump to which I was given 12 nanoseconds to react very firmly pitches itself in the "fucking me about" camp. But again, like a vast majority of Kickstarted projects, nostalgia runs through Mambo No. 5 like whiskey through a recently deposed prime minister. And this just makes the game all the more faithful to its roots and the age-old flaws that the nostalgia crowd don't see 'cause they willfully poked themselves in the eyes with their own excited stiffies.
I suppose the dialogue is pretty annoying. It just refuses to go away like an obnoxious uncle who came over for the holidays and is still there on January 3rd, fucking the family dog. It's got voice acting straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon series about the importance of friendship with household appliances. And if I can claw back all the brain cells this game wasted thinking of new ways to tell me that I have to fight the enemies, I'd have enough to think of a funnier way to end this sentence. This was particularly annoying during the boss fight of the first mission because I learned swiftly that his voice lines were giving away what attacks he was about to use. That's American military engineering for you, I suppose, but when I got him down to half health I couldn't hear his voice lines for a bit because my instructor had decided that now was the perfect time to remind me that I needed to fight the enemies. And with his subtitle and big stupid face concealing part of the arena my little robot body was promptly taught some of the more advanced yoga positions.
If I put my mind to it, I could come up with at least one major annoyance for every part of the game. In the power plant level, for example, the game only thought to tell me about the crouch dash move the moment after I was murdered by the pixel-perfect insta-kill trap where I was supposed to use it for the first and, as far as I know, only point in the game. In the underwater level, the water looks like Keith Richards has pissed in it, so the visibility is really obnoxiously poor for no apparent reason, unless a rogue level designer covered the walls in medical diagrams of diseased vaginas and no one could be bothered to take them down. And there is another level that takes place entirely in a corridor, again for no apparent reason. A very long, boring, repeated corridor. And to cement its candidacy for Overwatch-style most obnoxious play of the game, it's deliberately got no checkpoints. Perhaps it was intended as some kind of on-the-nose metaphor for Kickstarted game development: a long arduous, inescapable journey full of monsters throwing deadly coins at your head, and every now and again you get insta-killed because your community manager said something dumb on the Internet.
All in all, I felt very little motivation to continue playing when I could've been doing the laundry or waxing my asshole, but I still don't think it's that atrocious a game, just not as rewarding as ripping the hairs out of my taint, and frankly, few things are. It could be that the Mega Man fans are down on it because it's not so much a succession as a recession. Mega Man is an old and venerable empire of sequels and spin-offs with decades of gameplay tweaks and innovations, but Nine is the Loneliest Number didn't so much bring something to the table as snatched a few dinner rolls from the buffet and hide under the stairs. Cor lummy, a boss with fire attacks and then a boss with ice attacks? I'd better get off this fucking roller-coaster in case my nose gets nailed to the back of my skull. The main innovation I think is the dash move that allows you to absorb enemies with low health in return for small temporary boosts, and nothing that you might actually need such as more health or a set of magic insta-kill-repelling pajamas.
Mighty No. 9 is the classic victim of the hyper perpetual motion machine to which Kickstarted nostalgia ventures are inevitably fed. It committed its sins before it ever saw the light of day because the people who invested built it up too much and will inevitably be disappointed when it didn't heal their leprosy or travel back in time to assassinate Mecha-Stalin. On its own merit, its only crime is being a mediocre game wearing the bra of a considerably better-endowed one. You can either waste energy throwing its balled-up tissues back in its face or get over it and motorboat some cantaloupes instead.
- How the mighty have fallen: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- And of course Boris Johnson pulls out of the fucking prime ministerial race while I'm still working on this fucking video
- MechaStalin now available for after dinner speaking