Mekazoo: Electric Boogaloo Animal Switcheroo

The Good Mood Creators are petitioning gamers’ nostalgia for old 16-bit platformers, ones featuring animals and mascots and the like. With Mekazoo, their first commercial release, they may get a lot of return. What’s immediately apparent upon starting the demo for this game is the visual style—the imagery is cool and smooth, and the colors are mostly dark complemented with fluorescent detailing. It’s something of an electric wonderland and stood apart from many of the realism-focused graphics on display at GDC.

I started with a simple frog, who hops along peacefully in the 2.5D environments until simple hopping just will not do. It can shoot out its long, sticky tongue to swing from enemies and carefully placed bars to quickly move about the screen. But it was not long before reached an area it could not hop or lick its way out of. By the press of a button, the frog turned into an armadillo, capable of Sonic-like rolling dashes along curves. However, unlike the blue hedgehog, the armadillo can only do that and does not exude similar scarf-laden hipness. It’s just an armadillo.

Despite strong conformity to their species-specific qualities, Mekazoo was fun and rather fast, providing simple controls for gliding along stages at decent speed. Although it will have achievements for speedrunners, the developers chose to focus the experience on the casual gamer surprisingly. Speaking very comfortably with Mark Naborczyk, the product manager, he expressed the desire to give gamers a fairly relaxing platforming experience, something like a dream. They also wished to stand apart from the often-challenging 8-bit resurgence there’s been in indie gaming the last few years.

For those who’d like a little more out of the game, there are collectible orbs, which unlock challenge levels and aesthetic overhauls as well. It turns out I was particularly good at grabbing orbs, which surprised me given how terrible I was with scooping up lums in Rayman Legends, the only real analog I can provide from recent years. The regular game, though, contains about thirty levels, stretching over 10 hours or so of gameplay for those not speeding through it. Players will also be able to go back to earlier levels with each unlocked animal in the hopes of finding more orbs and secrets.

Given how easily I breezed through the frog/armadillo level, conveying a level of gamer skill I do not normally possess at gaming events, Naborczyk let me try out another level. This one featured the wallaby, whose ability is performing a strong jump in whatever direction the player pushes it towards. Coupled with its slightly unwieldy bouncing, this ability allows the wallaby to perform wall-to-wall jumps and break unstable walls and floors.

Later in the level, I was once again able to switch between it and either the frog or the armadillo (you only get two at a time). It was a lot of fun, given how uniquely each animal handles. Getting the feel for how and when you need to switch can lead to a lot of pitfalls, but when you do get it just right, you practically fly across levels. How that feel will translate to the couch co-op I was told about is yet to be seen. Apparently, the player controlling the other animal can just steal control, so communication or lack thereof will determine how well you get along by the end of the play session.

For now, I’m definitely feeling what Mekazoo is offering, and I’m looking forward to when it releases on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U in August.