[Warning: Metalix RPG contains non-sexual nudity, and has a long initial load time. The following review was co-written by Dora and Psychotronic.]
Deep story? Pffft. Strong characters? Who needs 'em! We are the few, the proud, the roguelike fans. All we need is the promise of randomly generated enemies, loot, and dungeon layouts to draw us e'er onward with a song in our hearts! And thanks to Point Zero, (Metalix Tower Defense), we can once again delve into a world of unlimited replayability and merciless ambushes! Huzzah!
Metalix RPG replaces the swords and sorcery of the traditional roguelike with cybernetic alternatives. The setting: a high-tech maze full of METALIX, who are silvery robots of various shapes and sizes. You'll find walking eggs, killer penguins, marauding babies, vicious sea anemones, and treacherous squid just on the first 5 levels, and they all have a glowing evil red eye and a thirst for human blood. And, luckily for you, a tendency to leave a lot of really deadly treasure lying around.
Your job is to battle, avoid, and outwit the Metalix, steal their power source and anything else that isn't nailed down or on fire, and escape the labyrinth unkilled. Naturally, the best way to accomplish this is to descend into the depths completely unprepared, naked as the day you were born, and hope that the capricious Fates will randomly supply you with useful defenses.
At least, that's the plan the first time. One of your most important items is the "escaping device", a handy panic button for times when the squidbots overwhelm you and you don't want to lose your brand new laser sword. The escaping device teleports you back to the surface, ending the story for that particular character, but leaving their equipment intact. Choose the best bits (armor, bullets, and a hand weapon are good choices) for the next character to take into Killer Robot Sushi Central, and you might just have a better chance this time. Metalix RPG is less about developing a single character, and more about assembling a potent supply cabinet for a parade of sacrificial lambs.
Metalix RPG can be played entirely with the mouse. Click on a space to move there, click on an enemy to attack it, walk onto an item to pick it up. Press [space] (or click the Gun button) to fire any bullets you have equipped in the direction you're facing. You start as a level 1 character on the first floor, and gain experience points by defeating enemies. Equip weapons, armor, and ammunition as you find them using the menu at the bottom of the screen. Your inventory space is limited, so you'll soon find your pockets bulging with an assortment of bewildering goodies, trying to decide which one to toss to make room for your brand new laser sword plus one. Or putrefied food, always a favourite.
Since nothing in the game moves until you do, you can take your time and plot out your movements. While some players may lament the lack of furious, pulse-pounding action, it won't take long for you to appreciate it. Swarms of enemies can descend without warning, and being able to stop, take a breath, and look for an escape route can keep a bad situation from turning worse. Even if you do end up dying, don't give up. You can set right out again with a new naked adventurer.
About that: the nakedness here is about as explicit as a Barbie Doll, whether you choose a male or female character, and miniscule to boot, but if it really bothers you, you'll be glad to know that as soon as you find some armor you'll be wearing a classy black vinyl catsuit, just like mother would have wanted.
Metalix RPG does not have auto-save. Choose "Suspend" from the system menu to save your game in progress.
Analysis: The idea behind making a roguelike RPG is to ensure that each dungeon crawl is unique and interesting, not because of tight design or a thrilling story, but because the individual pieces of the world interact with each other creatively. Diablo is a popular modern action roguelike, and the classic (other than Rogue itself), complete with graphics made entirely from keyboard characters, is Nethack. Your first encounter with a good roguelike tends to stick with you, whether it be Azure Dreams or ADOM. It seems like an entirely new concept, and you can spend hours combing dungeon floors with the promise of potential new items just around the corner every time.
Metalix RPG has a bevy of such items to discover, ranging from lights you can fire magic-wand-style at enemies, to EMP devices that shut down all the conveniently electronic enemies in the room at once. Most items come with a helpful description, and the fairly common "identification device" can help you figure out the purpose of lights and the strength of new equipment, but the shortest road to discovery is to try things out on the nearest titanium daddy long-legs. Also important, but not as common, is the "sending device", which will zap one item of your choosing back to storage for the next character to claim.
Although Metalix RPG doesn't exactly feature a real story, you'll find yourself making up your own, like the time when the robo-mouse stole Psychotronic's catsuit and teleported away and he spent 20 minutes naked, hunting it down with a rocket launcher. Or the time when Dora zapped a sea-anemone-bot with an insanity ray, causing it to massacre its friends and level up into an acid-spitting nightmare horror. Good times. Good times.
Randomly generated loot can be both a good thing, and a very frustrating thing. During our early playtesting of Metalix RPG, Dora acquired roughly enough swords before the third floor to fashion a giant hedgehog suit, while Psychotronic hadn't seen a single one after several playthroughs. By contrast, as festooned with stabbing implements as Dora was, she was also sorely in need of food and healing potions, which cropped up roughly never in the first several games. It makes the experience challenging and different each time you play, but it isn't exactly what one might call "balanced".
Does Metalix RPG hold up in the long run? Well, yes and no. While hunting down bigger and better items will sustain you for a good long while à la hedgehog suit, eventually you're going to run out of things to do. There are four missions in the game, and they're all more or less identical except for length. The game is still in development, however, so in the future you can expect to see new updates to the content (bosses!) that will make your victories taste even sweeter. As it stands, Metalix RPG is still an addictive, fun dungeon romp that should satisfy the greed-fueled hack-and-slash enthusiast in you. Just don't get too cocky. The giant walking egg is always watching.
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