Upon searching for an indie game to do my first ever proper review on, I knew it needed to be something interesting and exciting that others would want to check out. I surfed around a bit and looked at many, many, MANY, game trailers before discovering Celestial Mechanica, a little 2D Pixel Platformer made by Roger Hicks, of rComplex, and Paul Veer, the animator of Super Crate Box. In short- it is a hark back to the times of Mega-Man, Metroid and the original Super Mario Bros- with its gorgeous visuals, fantastic writing and well controlled movements that you constantly feel in control of. So let’s take a bit more of an in-depth look and check it out!
For the next 100 years, the alien race maintained the planet’s stability with a flying spacecraft named Mechanica.
The game starts with a pixel-based cut scene that informs the player the earth has pretty much given up. Humans have misused and abused it so much that it is going to break up into a million pieces and all life will be destroyed. Within seconds of said destruction, an alien race appear and fix the earth back to its normal, life-sustaining state. For the next 100 years, the alien race maintained the planet’s stability with a flying spacecraft named Mechanica. Those living on earth knew almost nothing about the aliens…until the game begins. You fall from the spacecraft and, upon meeting another Mechanica on the ground, traverse the game trying to find a way back to your home above the earth’s atmosphere.
As it is a free, 2D Metroid-Vania style platformer, there are incredibly little controls- which works perfectly. You can play the entire game using less than 7 buttons and most of them are the arrow keys. You move left and right while jumping up and down…that’s pretty much it! But it’s so, so much more than that. The writing and story in the game is expertly written so that it’s actually enjoyable to speak to NPC’s as opposed to just skipping through the text, trying to get back to the game. Each little sprite is animated in a perfect way that gives each little character a bit of personality that is regularly missing in a game with as little budget as this so huge points for that as well. Now…onto the controls!
As you might expect with a platformer, the controls are great and smooth. If you want to go somewhere, you will go there- you can’t blame the controls for your failure as you are in total control at all times. This creates a level of enjoyment straight away as we all know the worst part of a bad game is poor controls that hurts the overall experience as you play. You have to gain power-ups to do anything within the game. Initially, you are shown how to jump but have to back-track through the world to learn how to double jump. Once you have these two abilities, the world is opened up and you have to go to different, new stages to gain the others. For the first almost half of the game, you cannot attack. There are many enemies throughout the game, straight away. All you can do when you begin is run away or dodge them. Therefore, when you actually get the ability to harm them, it instantly creates the feeling of power which is incredibly important. Before you can harm the enemies, the power ups you receive are Jump, Double Jump, Move Blocks, Wall Jump, Wall Slide and finally, Hover. All of these combined helps create many different solutions for the puzzles that I will get into in a moment! Once you can harm enemies, the abilities you get are: Grab enemy bullets out of the air – either Energy Balls or Missiles and Deflect enemy fire.
While this sounds like a few amount of abilities provided- grabbing enemy bullets form two purposes. One is to obviously attack those in front of you to defeat them or use them in the environment. Energy Balls can charge up power sources e.g. Lightbulbs and missiles can destroy big, spiked enemies that are blocking your path. There are of course however, a downside to the controls. When in full screen mode, the camera controls can be incredibly irritating. As each stage is played across different levels, you can fall through them to gauge where you are. When in full screen- the high speed and complete change of pace the camera provides can cause you to become completely dis-oriented and lose where you are- which is hugely detrimental to the puzzle side of this game.
As you start the game, you instantly learn that you can back-track at any point during the game.
To those wishing to play Celestial Mechanica, and you definitely should, DO NOT EXCPECT AN EASY RIDE. This game is hard, very hard. While speed-runs of the game have been completed in under 20 minutes, new players to the game may take several hours to reach the end. The precise jumps you have to make, homing enemy fire you have to avoid and, perhaps the hardest thing, near impossible puzzles to solve can make you want to shout aloud in frustration. The huge up-side to this fact however is that you have no lives- you can die as many times as you want with the only punishment being having to make that hard jump again or dodge that specific missile. Now. The puzzles. As you start the game, you instantly learn that you can back-track at any point during the game. The map isn’t very large so after a while you’ll learn every aspect of it like the back of your hand. That however means that the solution to the problem in front of you may be at the other side of the game and you have no idea. This, intentionally, creates a lot of trial and error on your part when trying to solve them which again, can create a lot of anger on the player’s side.
Overall, while Celestial Mechanica is short, low budget and very, very hard, this game is great. As an indie game lover, this is a must have to those who share my passion. And best of all- IT’S FREE! That’s right, you just have to jump over to their website and download the game completely free and lose yourself in its wonderfullnes…is that a word? It is now…