What happens when you take the best platforming elements of classic Sonic games and mash them with the combat mechanics of Super Smash Bros., then throw in a sweet electronic soundtrack and a gorgeous, engaging art style for good measure? You end up with Megabyte Punch, an addictive and satisfying beat-’em-up with a unique style that never fails to entertain. What the game lacks in long-term value it more than makes up for with solid action and personality all its own.
Reptile Games’ side-scrolling brawler places you in the role of a completely customizable robot called a Megac in a world full of others just like you on a quest to save your planet. The story is nothing particularly note-worthy, but it does provide you with a fun journey through six lengthy, unique environments full of platforming challenges to conquer, enemies to defeat, collectibles and Megac parts to find, and bosses to destroy. The game is genuinely challenging yet remains fair throughout; I never felt like one of my many deaths at the hands of an enemy was undeserved. As you go through levels and gather new parts, you can pick and choose which ones to add to your Megac to give him different bonuses such as passive stat boosts or new abilities. Half the fun of the game is combining the over 150 different components to change not only your hero’s color and appearance but his fighting prowess as well. Sets can be saved and loaded too, encouraging experimentation.
One issue I had with right away was the controls. The arrow keys control movement (obviously) with the spacebar, Z, and X keys being mapped to the jump, standard attack, and special attack abilities respectively, which took awhile for me to become comfortable with. Even worse is that three of your four special abilities are activated by tapping X while holding a specific arrow key, resulting in responses I didn’t always expect or want. For instance, when navigating over an abyss, I often used my warp power (which I had mapped to a combination of the up arrow and the X button) to make the jump easier, but because I was also moving right or left when jumping, I sometimes ended up using an entirely different ability in the process, leading to a deadly fall. I would have much preferred for each power to have its own unique button to avoid these frustrating–though rare–situations. Left control and left shift activate your shield and shield break powers, but I didn’t find much use for either of these throughout the game. Megabyte Punch can be played with a gamepad such as an Xbox controller as well, and even though I didn’t get a chance to test this out, I would suggest using one; it can’t be worse than the keyboard controls.
Despite the rough learning curve, you’ll feel right at home after a couple hours of playing, and the pieces fall into place when you find an ability set you love. Unlike in most beat-’em-ups, you (and enemies) don’t have standard health bars. Rather, each Megac in any given battle has a damage counter that acts like the percentages from Super Smash Bros. As it grows, smash attacks toss enemies further and faster until they either fall out of the stage or blow up against a wall. It never got old to use damage-increasing attack such as a sniper rifle against a boss then perfectly time a judo kick to their face, launching them hundreds of feet out of the map to their ultimate demise. Beautiful moments like this aren’t uncommon, and they never failed to leave me grinning with a malicious sense of satisfaction.
As great and diverse as the story levels are, the multiplayer leaves much to be desired. As of this writing, no online multiplayer component exists for the game, an inexcusable drawback for such a high-octane brawler. I know indie games often struggle to get online multiplayer into their games, but Megabyte is simply too fun to not have the option to take the fight against global opponents. While it is possible for four players to duke it out on a single computer, this is nearly impossible without at least three players using gamepads. Here’s hoping Reptile Games adds an online multiplayer option further down the road. In the meantime, you can participate in tournaments against randomly generated AI Megacs, which is a good way to test out specific sets and abilities while you pass time hoping for the option to one day battle real-life opponents. Otherwise you can replay story missions to attempt to collect every part and color theme for your robot warriors, if that’s your fancy.
Any way you cut it, Megabyte Punch is a true indie treat. The combat is tight, the art style pops, the music compliments the action, and the game’s sense of style is undeniable. While Megabyte Punch is obviously influenced by other games, the end product is entirely its own, and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.