McDroid Review – Not the McDroid’s You’re Looking for…

McDroid Review

McDroid can be summed up as such: a real-time strategy tower defence crossover with the attitude and style of Borderlands, the charm of Star Wars, and frustrating difficulty spikes of Atlus’ Devil Survivor. It takes a tired genre that has been well and truly done to death and mixes it all in with elements from multiple beloved series’

– and then it expects us to take notice. Oh, the audacity! Perhaps unexpectedly for the genre, then, McDroid is one of the freshest examples for quite some time. For while it borrows heavily in ideas, it also presents something new and exciting that is both accessible and, ultimately, fun to play – at least in the early sections.

Crash landing on a distant planet, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is well. The setting is seemingly blighted by extra-terrestrial creatures such as giant slugs with teeth like nails and spiders which have mutated into something even more disgusting than that with which you may already be accustomed. Needless to say, the need to destroy such atrocities and restore the planet’s beauty works well enough to keep you engaged.

McDroid Review

McDroid is a four-legged robot who bounds around like an over-exuberant Great Dane that knows not of its grand size or how ridiculously adorable it looks with its playful nature. McDroid takes it upon himself – or herself, it could go either way – to rid the planet of the scourge that seems to be seeping out of its core and restore balance to nature. While going about your business, however, you must also protect your spacecraft – an apparently sentient automation with an abundance of charisma – who directs McDroid, and by extension you, on what to do and how to go about it.

“Perhaps unexpectedly for the genre, then, McDroid is one of the freshest examples for quite some time”

The initial few stages are fairly straightforward as you’re introduced to the game’s general mechanics. Pick up the green glowing seeds from fallen enemies and plant them in the soil to grow strawberries; these act as the general currency which can be used to, bizarrely, purchase turrets, bombs, shields, and other equipment. It might sound odd, but its playful theme and aesthetic somehow makes strawberries the most natural of currencies, and only adds to the game’s initial charm. Strawberries take around 60 seconds to grow after being planted, but they go mouldy should you take too long to pick them up. You can only carry so many at once making it essential that you manage your load by ferrying them back and forth from the fields to the ever-suave shuttle that brought you to this initially godforsaken planet to begin with.

Naturally, things get trickier as more elements are introduced to the fold. Building turrets to defend against the heinous offspring of the scourge is essential because you can quickly become overrun should you fail to efficiently build your defence. On your excursions between the strawberry plots and your shuttle you need to repair the turrets, or replace them should they get destroyed, and move them from one location to the next, depending on where the enemies are sprouting from in any given moment. You can also carry turrets around on your back, manually aiming at specific groups of enemies, and simultaneously repairing nearby turrets without the need to press anything.

The controls in this regard are fairly intuitive, but switching between items in the creation menu, in contrast, is strange. Accessing the menu and working your way around it is done entirely with the directional buttons, but it never becomes habitual, and slows down the flow of the game which undermines your performance. The game doesn’t pause while you do this, either, which means that when proceedings get busier in later sections, the lack of intuitive controls for the menu can be a source of unnecessary confusion and frustration – especially if it leads to your demise.

“The frantic back-and-forth and time-management sections of the game become frustrating later on, and severe difficulty spikes are not uncommon”

At first, McDroid appears as a far more accessible tower defence game than most, but the frantic back-and-forth and time-management sections of the game – initially challenging, but fun – become downright frustrating later on, and severe difficulty spikes are not uncommon. You’ll be making your way through the game with hardly any issues whatsoever for hours before you are introduced to some incredibly complicated time-management sections that are made up of frantic traversals and consistent failures. And without any form of checkpoint within levels, should you fail to keep on top of things, you must start that level from the beginning – some of which can be quite long.

McDroid Review

In the early stages, McDroid‘s charm is abundant – helped along by the R2D2-like beeping of McDroid’s dialogue with the always appealing shuttle – and the cell-shaded style is both welcome and efficient. In later stages, however, the game becomes a tad laborious and frustrating, especially when you are forced to play through challenge missions which essentially repeat levels which you have already completed. Frame rates drop in the larger battles, too, so if the annoyance of the game’s difficulty spikes isn’t enough to make you speed up, the prospect of awful frame rates certainly will. Indeed, you better take those enemies out pronto, before the frame-rate drops like a lead balloon. It’s a shame such a technical issue has surfaced here, since the title’s graphical style certainly doesn’t seem all that demanding.

Verdict

McDroid is a game with plenty of charisma and sweet ideas. It takes a tired genre and throws it together with elements from elsewhere to create an engaging and charming hybrid. It’s aesthetically excellent, with some provocative ideas, but technical problems in larger sections of the game hamper the overall experience. Difficulty spikes and repeated levels also let the game down and prevent if from being truly memorable, but underneath the issues lies an interesting game which provides quite a rush.


This review was published on Push Square (March 15, 2016). Review copy provided by Grip Games. 

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