To fully enjoy Meganoid, you have to be a certain kind of gamer. Did you cut your teeth on crazy-hard old-school games like Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania? Do you have the reflexes of a rabid cheetah on a speed bender? Do you think you deserve punishment? Because Meganoid will punish you. But if you keep trying, you can handle it. You might even love it.
There’s really nothing in Meganoid we haven’t seen before on the iPhone or the NES, but for the most part the game is very well designed. Your main move set is basic: you can move left and right, and you can jump. In some later levels you’ll get new abilities– like a reversing gravity or using a jet pack– but the basic platforming mechanics are the game’s core, and the controls are very responsive.
The game contains 70 short levels, and all you have to do to progress is reach the exit in each stage. Because of how hard some of the later levels are, it’s a little unfortunate that you can’t skip levels and come back to them later. But that fits with the tough-as-nails old-school vibe of the game, so we can’t complain too much.
Spikes, how they tickle the feet.
What makes it so tough? Sadistic level designs. You’ll encounter enemies, spikes, lasers, turrets, and disappearing platforms just about every step of the way. These challenges are packed into each level, and they often require pixel-perfect movement and split-second timing to get through. The difficulty ramps gradually, however, so if you keep at it, you should be able to beat any troublesome levels before too long.
And if you’re into 100% completion, you can also try to collect all the diamonds and beat the levels within a set amount of time. Many diamonds are tucked away in secret areas, so you’ll have to do some serious poking around to get them all.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. In most modern retro games– like League of Evil, Mos Speedrun, and Super Meatboy– you have unlimited lives, and you restart levels immediately when you die. In Meganoid you get three lives, and when you lose them you’re booted to the start screen. Making your way back to the level doesn’t take long, but it requires extra taps, which gets old quickly.
Don’t look down.
Meganoid is also a little glitchy. When you collect projectiles in the game, your character shoots them at enemies automatically. Except sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes you’ll charge at an enemy, thinking he’ll be shot dead by the time you get there, and end up dying because your character didn’t shoot. Another annoyance is that sometimes you’ll flick a switch to open up a passageway, and it’ll flick closed when you walk off of it.
But the worst problem we had was app instability. As we played through the game on our fourth generation iPod Touch, the game crashed somewhere around three dozen times. This, on top of being kicked back to the start menu when you lose all your lives, makes grinding away at levels that much more frustrating.
So until they address some of these issues– issues that are pretty easily fixable with updates– we can’t fully recommend Meganoid to everyone yet. But don’t get us wrong: even in its current state we had loads of fun. If you like a good challenge and you can handle some frustration, Meganoid satisfies.