Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
There’s a good argument to be made that the 16-bit era, which saw the famous Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis war, was one of, if not the greatest video game generation. NeoMech harkens back to one of the genres that made that era so memorable: 2D, sprite-based shooters. While it may not do enough to improve on its retro foundation, it still packs a powerful punch.
As soon as the game begins the Contra and Metal Slug influences are obvious. Players take control of the titular war machine as they tear through waves and waves of enemy forces under the command of an evil and desperate general. Movement is automatic so the focus is on aiming, weapon switching, and defense. Players simply drag a reticule around the screen to target enemies and NeoMech will constantly fire until the ammo runs out or the gun overheats, depending on the weapon used. It’s a familiar, basic set-up, but there is a small bit of nuance in the shield mechanic. At any time players can activate the shield which halts NeoMech and protects it from damage. Since shield energy is limited though, it must be used strategically. For example, players can fire their gun until it overheats, wait for a group of soldiers to run back and launch their bazookas, activate the shield right before impact, and by that time the gun will have cooled down and players can resume their domination unscathed. Still, nothing about the gameplay is particularly fresh or surprising. It just proves that shooting things is as fun now as it was in 1992.
Also straight out of 1992 is the level of difficulty. NeoMech is unforgiving and once players die it’s back to level one. They can choose to spend a few coins on returning to checkpoints, but those coins are better spent on armor and weapon upgrades. This arbitrary retro challenge is potentially frustrating but the game is such a joy to play and look at that one may not mind being forced to do it again. Sprites are delightfully chunky and vibrant while lightning and explosions and rocket power-ups just crackle onscreen. Aside from boss fights, enemies and backgrounds tend to repeat too often but that’s not out of place in a game of this style. Even the music feels right at home, like the background of an arcade or from the new TRON movie.
NeoMech isn’t some piece of high art that seeks to elevate or deconstruct an old genre the way certain other retro throwbacks do. It’s just a new game with fun, old influences. Sometimes fun is enough.