Friday, May 22, 2015

Game Review - Mega Coin Squad (Xbox One, 2015)

I'm always interested in new platformers.  The best ones have simple gameplay, so they're easy to pick up and play, but also have relatively high skill ceilings, rewarding practice with bonus levels or extra challenges, making for a good experience for players of all types.

Mega Coin Squad is not one of those games.

The premise is promising: you play through a series of levels that are effectively 2-dimensional arenas bounded by walls on either side.  Each level will challenge you to collect a certain number of coins and deposit them in a giant piggy bank somewhere in the stage.

Pictured: a giant piggy bank in it's natural environment.
Additionally, each stage is very dynamic, with new sections disappearing and spawning over time.  These vanishing sections provide an infinite number of coins to collect, but also introduce obstacles in the form of monsters or spikes.  Get hit three times, and you'll have to start all over; collect and bank the required number of coins, and you move on to the next stage.

On paper, it sounds like exactly the kind of thing I like to see.  It's a simple premise that's easy to understand but offers the opportunity for ever-increasing complexity to challenge the most adept of players.

Here's the problem: the game only has 16 levels, and each can be completed in 2 minutes or less.  After playing through the game a couple of times, even the last few stages were pretty simple.

The overworld clearly displaying the first four stages. This area is a quarter of the entire game.
Of course, there are leaderboards where you can compare your fastest completion time with the best players in the world.  There are also several playable characters (though they differ in fairly minor ways), and you can work towards getting perfect ratings in each level by not losing any lives and banking all the necessary coins in one go, but that's basically it in terms of replay value.

I felt like I had completely exhausted everything the game had to offer within 5 hours of game time, and that was after replaying the game with each of six different characters (which really wasn't particularly fun after the second time).

To be fair, the game's mechanics are pretty deep.  In addition to the standard running and jumping, your character can throw fireballs, dash in any direction (including up and down), and jump off walls, allowing for some pretty complicated maneuvers.  You can even upgrade those abilities with a Super Mario Bros. 3-style slot machine for getting good ratings, giving some degree of customization.

It's just that the content is much too shallow to support a complex (and frankly enjoyable) movement system.  Once you develop some skill with the game, nothing is left to challenge you, so there's no point in playing anymore.

A new section spawns to the right of our fearless protagonist.
There's also one really damning problem: there seems to be a memory leak issue, where the game gets intolerably laggy after playing for more than 20 minutes.  For a game with such a simple aesthetic, this lag is unacceptable, especially considering that most of the game's "content" comes in the form of rushing through the game quickly.

In the end, the first hour or so was pretty fun, but Mega Coin Squad loses its luster quickly.  It's worth checking out if you can play the game at no cost, but anything more than a few dollars feels excessive for the underwhelming experience you'll get.

My Rating: 3/10 - bad.

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