Mekazoo has a cheeky rhyme for tricky gameplay

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Flying colors

“When in doubt, switch them out.” Sage-like advice, really. That’s what Mekazoo’s creative director Jarrett Slavin had to tell me to do when I showed obvious struggles playing his demo. I’m no stranger to platformers, but this one has a learning curve about it that’s difficult to grasp, but so rewarding once you find a rhythm.

His suggestion was one that developers Good Mood Creators coined whenever someone seemed to temporarily forget that Mekazoo features a dual-animal system. It’s easy to fall into the trap of cruising right along with your game-assigned, tech-glimmering creature — so much so that repeated failures of a section are likely less a case of “you’re bad at this game” and more “you need to try with the other animal.”

Half the reason that Mekazoo players have a tendency to put strategy on the back-burner is because the game looks so damn enchanting. Sporting a “2.5D” aesthetic, the camera has a way of wrapping and zooming around in a controlled frenzy that adds depth to the levels. When it’s time to slow things down again, a standard two-dimensional approach is taken.

But, where experienced platformers will find the most challenge is within the way that each animal uses its unique ability. The frog, who starts the game off, has a stretched-out tongue that can latch onto far away floating objects. The wallaby, who comes along later, has a bounce that’s particularly strong. However, the rub lies within the fact that these special abilities are designed to activate upon releasing a face button – not simply pressing it. It’s enough to initially throw you off your rhythm, that is, until you eventually fall into the groove that Mekazoo lays down.

Mekazoo always takes control over which two particular animals are used at any given time. There’s no freedom of choice there. That’s because, with so many different abilities across the many creatures, granting that option would weaken level design. By creating the levels around the specific animals, Good Mood Creators gets to challenge the player in whatever way it sees fit.

If there was any doubt, my 30-minute demo erased any concerns that Mekazoo wouldn’t offer a challenge. Each level is packed with collectible currency, secret pick-ups, alternate paths, and hazards at every turn – and this is a game that revels in its twists and turns. Deaths came at a constant clip, but they were less frequent once I got a feel for the mechanics. That’s where that learning curve comes in; and once overcoming it, that’s where the immensely satisfying part takes over.

Eventually, I wandered across a “race the lava” section. Slavin informed me that this is where most people gave up. I could see why. It was a stiff test for having so little time to learn Mekazoo. Still, I was determined to best it. Maybe 15 minutes (and several deaths) later, I cleared it like it was no big thing. That’s how those sections tend to go – relentless challenge until you pass it with flying colors.

Really, “flying colors” describes all facets of Mekazoo. At times, everything will seem an aesthetically-pleasing blur; other times, you’ll try, try, try until that aforesaid suddenly easy success comes along. But, the latter is less frustrating than you’d think, simply because Mekazoo‘s world is an amazing place to be immersed in.