REVIEW | Mekorama

“A good, fun puzzler with a satisfying level challenge, but this is a mobile game at heart and it’s hard to recommend on Switch when you almost certainly own a smartphone.”

Originally arriving on mobile in 2016, Martin Magni’s Mekorama immediately conjures up memories of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Monument Valley, looking as it does like a cross between the two of them.

Your challenge is to guide a small R2D2-style robot known as ‘B’ through 100 cute diorama levels (an increase from the mobile version’s 50). B is quite the endearing little robot; it has a very charming waddle of a walk and its feet have trouble keeping up with its body. The simple but effective animation work on it does a great job of infusing character. It’s a shame though that this is the extent of the character or world-building. There’s no story whatsoever. A game like this doesn’t particularly need one, but it would have been nice to have been given some underlying reason to progress through the levels.

Each level is built using a small pallet of brick types arranged to build themed locations – windmills, mazes, towers, etc. The objective is to make it to the red spot on each level, navigating various obstacles in your path. You can push, pull and spin platforms to find a path, and soon you’ll be dodging the other robots that are total jerks; blocking your way or electrocuting you in a random acts of violence. You feel quite sorry for B really.

The game has nice layering of challenge. It uses its small pallet of blocks and objects to build a large number of smart ideas. Nice physics effects also increase the challenge (or frustration) as momentum can see B get knocked off the level into the white void below, where it must spend an eternity trapped beyond salvation (until you restart the level). Sadly, there’s no reason at all to return to levels once you’ve finished them. There’s none of the secrets or collectables that can be found in Captain Toad and as anyone who’s played that game knows, these are the real reasons for playing through the game.

The presentation is nice; it’s clean and sharp. The menus display the levels laid out as cards that flip over as you unlock them. The sound however adds nothing; this is a game you could happily play on mute while watching TV.

“Sadly, there’s no reason at all to return to levels once you’ve finished them.”

My biggest issue with this game is the awkward control scheme. There’s no doubt it works best just using the touchscreen. You interact with the world by tapping spaces – which B will run to if it can – or by holding down on the moveable parts to manipulate the level. The Switch buttons are therefore just used to move a cursor round the screen to do the job of your finger less effectively, or to move the camera. With the camera too, a lot of the time you’ll find that key spaces are obscured by the objects around it and you don’t have enough control to see what you need. It’s hugely frustrating (although it should be noted that some levels do cleverly turn this restriction into part of the puzzle). I don’t want to keep comparing this game to Captain Toad, but it’s impossible to play a game so similar on Switch and not wish you could just use the control stick to directly control B.

The package includes a level creator, which could have been a great tool. Sadly though there’s no way to share the levels online (as you can do on the mobile version) so it’s fairly pointless. It’s also a far cry from Mario Maker 2’s intuitiveness, as the placing of blocks seems quite haphazard. Still, I’m sure people will be able to have fun creating something satisfying and passing it to a friend or family member to try and complete.

Mekorama has made the transition to consoles but ultimately it’s still too much a mobile game. It lacks the depth of Captain Toad and the wonder and art of Monument Valley. It’s still a good, fun puzzler with a satisfying level challenge, but it’s hard to recommend on Switch when you almost certainly own a smartphone. While it costs less than £5 on Switch, you can pay what you like on mobile. It’s simple gameplay and control scheme cry out for the short bursts of play inherent to mobile gaming. My suggestion would be to try it there first. If you like what you play, you can buy it on Switch to open up double the levels and keep playing.

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