Impressions: Megabyte Punch

By Ben Barrett on August 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am.

... and smell the ashes? HALF-LIFE 3 CONFIRMED

This article would be decidedly shorter if I could assume you, dearest reader, had played (and loved) Super Smash Brothers. If so: Megabyte Punch is the indie game that will resonate profoundly with your deep core of videogame memories. It combines the control system of that ancient, favoured title with more character customisation and level exploration than you could shake a Rogue Legacy at. You’ll love it to death and you’re doing yourself an absolute disservice if you don’t pick it up.

For the rest of you, read on to discover what makes your next purchase tick.

What differentiates the combat system of Megabyte Punch from its contemporaries is the freeform nature. No hit counter, no pre-built endless series of mashing that locks an opponent in eternal hit-stun. Instead, everything must be dealt with on the fly. A punch may send a target airborne, prime for a follow up, but you’re still in complete control. There is no cinematic manoeuvre to trigger with a single press and then watch play out. You react in a timely manner or your chance is lost and you must once again search for an opening. Enemies don’t take conventional “damage” either, instead getting more and more susceptible to knockback until impact with a wall splits them open. It’s challenging and unfriendly compared to the norm. Definitely a significant learning curve that will baffle for a short time.

But it’s so good.

So. Fucking. Good.

It’s the ultimate in removing hand-holding to force adaption. What’s simple in other action brawlers is difficult here, making the payoff all the sweeter. I reacted vocally the first time I combo’d one of the game’s many weaker enemies to death without dropping a hit, bouncing him through the air with a series of well timed attacks before the final smash. Those fine humans over at Reptile know how to emphasise too, the death blow rocketing my poor opponent into scenery at a gorgeous speed akin to explosive decompression. Upon impact he tore through weaker blocks of terrain with a metallic grinding before the final gratifying pop spread bits (currency) over the floor. Then things got really clever.

You see the levels of Megabyte Punch are vast, sprawling series of colourful, part-robotic, part-natural rooms. They link to one another by various means: perhaps a mine can blow up a wall or a platform can be jumped through to progress. But there are hidden caches of chests and enemies that are completely enclosed by terrain and totally inaccessible. However, as mentioned, final hits send enemies flying at such speed that they dig through the surroundings. On my way to the corpse of my fallen adversery-cum-drill I discovered he’d opened up a cave filled with loot! Not only am I now attempting to combo enemies as stylishly as possible because it just looks cool; I’m keep an eye out for what surface I need to blast them into so as not to waste their hazardous departure.

Exploration is well rewarded with modular customisation being the hinge of character progression. Within literally a minute of entering the first proper combat zone I’d picked up wings, a gun and a new head, resembling a rhino, that buffed damage. Now, an hour or so later, I’ve replaced almost everything once again, both legs improved to provide speed and defense. My head gifts a third jump while one arm is stronger and another can lay down a wall of bricks. Each upgrade has a unique look, so while my young robot once had a wimpy feel to him, he’s now a red and yellow, spiky, jet-pack wielding tank with a shield on one arm, and a drill for a hand.

At first I was worried the four ability slots – some pieces give passive benefits, others provide these activated effects – had been filled too soon. However, it was more complicated than that. Certain combinations just aren’t as useful as the sum of their parts. A triple jump AND a jet pack AND the ability to fly for a short time is an extraordinary amount of vertical capability. Each uses a valuable slot. Instead of the activated flight, I elected for aerodynamic blades which improved flexibility. This freed up an ability slot, meaning I could bring my drill arm to bear. It’s a constant, desperate balancing act between elements and you’re encouraged to experiment instead of sticking with the same stale style all game long.

I do want to take a paragraph for a little message: Reptile, implement a proper save system. At the moment progress isn’t saved between levels, only once an entire area is cleared. This can be a significant setback if there are other demands on your time that cause a mid-session break. Resetting to the start of a level once all “lives” are lost would be an acceptable compromise, rather than forcing players to re-do entire segments. It really is the only thing I have to complain about, though. The basic platforming and fighting is sublime and I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

Megabyte Punch will be released August 6th on Desura and the Humble Store (via the main website) for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can also vote for it on Greenlight.

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29 Comments »

  1. BTAxis says:

    Wait, I thought this was a multiplayer game?

  2. gravity_spoon says:

    Is this like Smash Bros for the PC ? And if so, is it multiplayer only ? Does it involve a campaign/story mode ?

  3. Ross Angus says:

    Excellent alt-text.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Was pining for “No items, Fox only, Final Destination” actually

      • gwathdring says:

        I’m personally very fond of jumping up to Melee for Jigglypuff only, no items, final destination. RAMMING SPEED!

  4. GHudston says:

    This may be heresy here, but I really don’t understand what would possess the developers of a game clearly intended to be played with a controller (with local multiplayer, no less!) to target the PC.

    I’ll be buying this in a heart beat and I’m positive that I’ll love it, but I just know that the entire time I’m playing it I’ll wish I was sitting around my TV with 3 friends. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever play the multiplayer on the PC as I don’t think I can comfortably fit myself and 3 friends at my desk.

    • The Random One says:

      Probably because on PC they have to jump through less hoops. If it turns out to be a big hit they’ll have a far easier time getting it on the toyboxes later.

      • Ben Barrett says:

        It’s also devved in Unity and I have no idea how that goes getting transferred to consoles.

        It does have a set of keyboard controls, but I only used them for a little while before I tried the full version. They were smooth enough, might even be preferable in some circumstances due to the way angling attacks works and the small reaction times required.

        • Baines says:

          There are some made-in-Unity games on consoles, but I assume that you still have to deal with dev kit and licensing issues, which are probably a pretty big barrier for small indies.

          The PS3 dev kit was apparently originally $20,000, but Sony cut the price drastically over time, down to $2000 a few years ago. The PS4 dev kits are apparently $2,500? I don’t know if the Xbox 360 dev kit price was ever made public, but it was rumored at one time to be around $10,000. All three systems had/have Unity support. The Wii U dev kit even comes with a free custom Wii U-only version of Unity, but the dev kit itself apparently $7,000. Retail Xbox Ones are supposed to be able to be used as dev kits themselves (though I’d expect with some additional license charge or something), but Unity’s web page doesn’t mention Xbox One support anyway.

          • crinkles esq. says:

            From what I’ve read, yes PS4 devkits are $2500, but being loaned out for free to some indie developers. Sony has lowered the bar for indie developers — gotten rid of concept approvals, reduced or eliminated license fees. (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/189271/) Say what you will, but they’re making an effort because they feel the heat from mobile and PCs, and this is a good thing for all gamers.

            A retail Xbone can supposedly be used as a devkit, but considering it doesn’t have the extra CPU or RAM of the full devkit, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know what MS’s licensing scheme is for the Xbone.

          • Baines says:

            Sony learned what to do in consoles by watching Microsoft and doing the opposite.

            Seriously, that pretty much described their strategy since mid-PS3 era. They’ve been marketing themselves as not being Microsoft, and it has been working.

    • kalirion says:

      Connect your computer to your TV and invest in 3 extra controllers – problem solved. (assuming the game supports multiple concurrent gamepads.)

      • GHudston says:

        This might be an option if my PC wasn’t in a different room to my TV!

        • Nucleus says:

          Xbox360 wireless controllers work quite fine in 8-10 meter radius. My TV and PC are also in separate rooms (connected via 10m long HDMI cable), wireless controllers have no trouble getting a signal through a concrete wall and 8 meter distance.

  5. Bobtree says:

    It looks good, but the near-constant screen shaking is inexcusable.

    • jamesgecko says:

      Screen shaking is mostly a thing when you punch people through freaking walls which is generally exactly when I want my screen to shake.

  6. kalirion says:

    I hope the DRM Free installers on the Desura page will be available once the game goes live on August 5. I thought they were there when I got the alpha or beta version in one bundle or another, but I may have just downloaded from the bundle site instead.

  7. jamesgecko says:

    I played the beta a few months ago, and it’s pretty much amazing.

    The only downside is that after a while, the flow of new and interesting things in the single player campaign slows down. There’ll be new variations of enemies and new parts in each area, but I started to feel like I’d seen most of the things.

    But perhaps that’s changed! Definately go buy it.

  8. Hypocee says:

    Is the Kongregate demo representative of the game? I see its posting is well over a year old, but has it been updated? Anyway, I played through the campaign’s first ‘level’ – three big-ass stages and a boss – and figured I’m interestingly conflicted enough to write it up.

    - Both way too easy and more importantly way too simple to survive. I had six lives stored up when I stopped, and not one encounter ever felt like a real threat. Nothing moves fast like the player – the green mantabyte cores or whatever barely enter the neighbourhood – and the most common enemies are nothing but targets. Yeah, I died – a couple times even to enemies, when I waded into a crowd of minibosses and repeatedly tried to test out a new ability. Survival, at least, was generally most efficient by walking up to a crowd and farting Z for a while. They fly off, regroup literally, repeat. You can use your skills if you want, but it’ll go slower.
    - OK, so the enemies aren’t really enemies, they’re for mining. Except I haven’t a clue which surfaces are susceptible. Oh, the blue tiles are; nope, that dying thing just ricocheted off. Oh, the grass is; well, not over here with the downward attack.
    - Let’s forget about that for a second, and assume I can tell what’s a weak point. The game becomes about aiming robocarcasses, right? Well, my slide’s supposed to do downward force – it knocks everyone down, for sure, and I think it sent a guy down once, but it mostly doesn’t. The Blaster is supposed to be pure lateral force and it’s supposed to do damage too, but I tried hitting dudes with it for a while and they never flew any further. Then I tried hitting them with single punches for a while to layer on damage and supposedly increase their susceptibility to force. They never moved any further, let alone flying sideways the way I believe I’m supposed to use this…?
    - The third-hit kick-uselessly-into-the-distance seems to be the only thing that somewhat predictably triggers projectility. There seems to be no tell whatsoever for how damaged any enemy is. That seems important if you’re going to transplant a party-multiplayer game mechanic into every single enemy in a single-player platformer. I mean, just off the top of my head, have little spark particle effects pop out of their heads: One at a time for 2X velocity, two for 3X or however it works. In SSB you’re getting that feedback with every hit in a long match. This is more enclosed and enemies are more numerous, less sophisticated and don’t last long.
    - That’s a lie. The uppercut arm seems to projectilise everybody all the time. It sends them straight up forever through the ceiling so you get no loot. I quit using it tout suite.
    + Enemies move (that is, the ones that do practically move) effectively and convincingly around the levels toward the player, no matter how they’ve been scattered. I don’t know whether that’s actually hard to do – Derek Yu said in an interview that Spelunky’s shopkeeps are effective with some very simple jump decision trees – but it’s uncommon at any rate.
    - Too much exploration isn’t exploration anymore. I had this same problem most vividly with Aquaria. Levels are vast, interconnected, lightly convoluted mazes of moderately open corridors and moderately small rooms, all alike. Wander around, bop equally ineffective enemies, collect money crates. Saunter right far enough and you’ll find the end of the level. You’ll see a few goodies locked away requiring you to kick someone precisely into a bomb using mechanics I don’t understand, but in general you can get to anything you see if you detour enough. The hub world’s pretty explorable; none of the levels has any distinctive location or landmark to let you feel where you are. Actually that’s not quite true. One of the levels has a pile of oddly out-of-place crates at one point. You can destroy them. Nothing happens when you destroy them, and then there’s no more landmark. Failing more fundamental design, just a couple trees or some weird abstract digital widgets scattered at random would give some kind of anchor.
    + I like the miniboss/swarm encounter pits. You’re walking along, or on one occasion that I hope wasn’t coincidence drop deliberately into an out-of-the-way pit, and escape routes suddenly seal off and you’re mobbed! Once I was even actually mobbed! By…six of the do-nothing target bots. Dammit. Whap whap whap. Usually it’s two, sometimes three of the bigger bots. You’ll randomly meet two or three bigger bots just hanging out in rooms in the regular environment. It’s such a shame that nothing is a threat, because those gates coming down add flavour and sometimes even humour to the encounter.
    - The concern that most bleeds through to the proposed multiplayer (bots?) mode has to do with the customisation aspect. The shapes are so crude, and the animations so undistinguished, that I couldn’t tell what was on my own bot, let alone any of the enemies. It’s an important part of SSB’s appeal that you can learn what Jigglypuff’s capable of, and always know at a glance which of your enemies he is. Here, my robot has a red head. The body’s one of the three types that are predominantly blue. There is at least one of at least one of the three types of red arm. A leg is green, I think. As for enemies, forget it. Most of the enemies are predominantly blue and squat. You should walk up to them and mash Z.
    + The predominantly green guys are the exception. They’re different-coloured and move differently. Of course, they also look the same as each other…
    + The shield arm is also instantly recognisable. It’s almost like what Valve said all those years about the importance of silhouette, then tossed for money after a year or two of TF2, was right. The shield is big and shaped like a shield. The blaster needs to be shaped like a gun, not three blue triangles. The uppercut fist needs to be shaped like a boxing glove, not a tiny red rectangle. I find so much of the iOS-based exaggerated, dissociated vector sprites look repulsive, but this game actually cries out for it rather than the 3D (almost no) polys approach. It’s a little late now, I know.
    - None of the enemies with the shield ever actually deployed the shield. It’s one of the few abilities that could have entertainingly impaired me, and I had to wait until I got it to see it in action.
    - When full of loot and facing a new part (or a blue blob that may be a new part) there’s no way to drop vendor trash that I can see. I can ‘store’ it, but I can’t tell yet what that actually means. I tried to store some good stuff for later, so I hope it doesn’t destroy that stuff. I’ve just stored everything I didn’t go to wear at that second. It’s not explained in any way.
    + The interface for mapping your commands to your special abilities is explained – well – and pretty and intuitive and an actual original improvement on SSB or a traditional key-mapping interface. Very good!
    - Mantabyte Arm’s Slice=win game, especially effective as a general juggle and threat against the boss.
    - That section at the exit of stage 2 or 3, with the jump up narrow platforms, does the game no favours in showing off its twitchy, slippery jump system. I finally shook myself out of my angry trance and realised that 8 bits or whatever wasn’t worth another half-dozen tries at hitting the crate.
    + The art aside from the nondescript robots is lovely. The tileset is consistently attractive, and the backgrounds are gobsmackingly pretty at times – full of depth, organic but abstract and digital at the same time. Doubly so in the hub world.
    + The big one, which balances out much of that sea of minuses and makes this a dilemma. The actual boss, Bouldar, takes a long, aimless while to reach butw hen you do reach him, he’s maaaag-nificient. Same size as you, same movement as you, a terrifying drill dash and some kind of shield(?). You’re on a medium-sized body of ground with some platforms. First one to touch the floor down below loses, GO! His drill moves and to a lesser extent your actions are constantly tearing up and reconfiguring the terrain, and he can pile on the damage and start punting you repeatedly if you don’t pay attention. It’s dangerous, it’s tense, it’s fast, it’s an orgy of chaotic environmental destruction, it’s focused on one goal and a progression toward that goal punctuated by escapes from scrapes on both sides – a prototypical boss fight dynamically boiled out of one game entity. It bodes well for bots, if they exist, and the general feel of multiplayer.

    Maybe that’s all hopelessly out of date! I dunno! Here’s hoping, really! That’s my impression.

    • Rivalus says:

      it’s out of date. the game have gone with many iterations after the demo. They said they will put up a new demo after release. I’m so gonna buy this game, probably the first game i’m going to buy at full price.

  9. stillunverified says:

    Well i sure hope the demo on Desura is an early version.
    - Everything feels ridiculously clunky due to the use of the analogue stick (and trying to rebind to the d-pad doesn’t work, you can only bind to horizontal and vertical axis, fortunately the config recognizes left/right and up/down as axis, unfortunately when i tried to do that my controls were reversed)
    - The hitbox problems (there’s no collision, you just pass right through enemies, which makes everything feel weightless and weird, and results in stupid shit like enemies flying backwards and makes it unnecessarily difficult to land stuff like a raw basic launcher because you need to compensate so you dont pass directly through, especially when you’re fighting on an icy floor)
    - You stop dead when attacking and there’s no dashing attack, so approaching an enemy and transitioning into combat doesn’t feel fluid

    Aside from that, the first paragraph sounds like it was written by somebody whose only experience with “beat em ups” is God of War or something, talking as if the lack of QTEs or one button 100 hit combos is something unique, it’s kind of ridiculous.

    • gwathdring says:

      This why I love my Logitech controller! There’s a mode button that swaps the D-pad and left analogue sick. So you can use the D-Pad and the computer interprets it as an analog stick that just happens to always send perfect, 8-directional input.

  10. P4p3Rc1iP says:

    Oh wow, I played an early version of this a few years ago when the devs were still students. It didn’t really look like much back then but I think it’s great how they’ve stuck with it and kept working on it!

  11. Rivalus says:

    It’s released today!!! C’mon fellow gamers! Megabyte Punch!!!!