Developer: Mercury Steam, Nintendo
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 08/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Putting the Metroid in Metroidvania
Oh boy, this one’s a doozie! I remember playing Metroid and Metroid II when I was a wee bairn, all those distant sepia-toned years ago. At the time they were revolutionary. Where am I going? What am I doing? It was all so novel. They were brutally brilliant and I remember scratching my head over and over, working out where to go next. Good times! I have really been looking forward to this one, welcome to my Metroid Dread Nintendo Switch review.
Metroid Dread follows on from the previous 2D Metroid games. In fact, it gives you a quick run-down of what has happened so far in the opening few minutes of the game. In Dread you have been sent to the planet ZDR to investigate not only video evidence that the X parasite still exists but to also find out what happened to all the EMMI robots that were also sent there to investigate. You, Samus Aran, must traverse the planet, reveal its secrets and try not to die. Spoiler, you will die, quite a few times actually.
Classic Feels with Modern Twists
The first thing that struck me while playing Metroid Dread is how much it still felt like classic 2D Metroid but with a more fluent, up to date presentation. I grew up playing 2D Metroid games and did not want this new addition to stray too far away from that formula. Luckily, my fears were very quickly quashed.
For anyone who has never played a 2D Metroid game or any Metroid game for that fact, Metroid games are well, Metroidvanias, haha. I have always wanted to refer to a Metroid game as a Metroidvania. I have used the term so much about other titles but never about the game that the term originated from. That is one item ticked off the old bucket list. It’s not often you get to play a game that spawned a whole genre!
Nooks, Crannies and New Abilities
A Metroidvania style game is a game that will gate you off from certain areas until you have the relevant upgrade or powerup to proceed. These games encourage exploration, experimentation and will not hold your hand as to where you should go next. They are not for everybody but I like the type of experience they offer. It’s funny the way I talk to myself when playing these games. “There are a lot of new door types I cannot open here, there must be a new powerup nearby!”
Classic games of this ilk are Ori, Hollow Knight and my personal favourite, Guacamelee. Metroid Dread still treads these halls with long corridors, lots and lots of doors, locks, switches and secrets aplenty. I really enjoyed exploring Dread’s map and working out how to get into all the nooks and crannies. It was also empowering seeing Samus get more and more powerful as the game progressed
Chase Me, Chase Me!
There was a little wrinkle and a new addition to Dread that did add a heightened tension when exploring. The EMMI’s, I do not refer to an award for American television either, rather a death-inducing set of robots that you will have to overcome to succeed. These metal-based murder machines killed me numerous times and patrol certain areas of the map. Your choices are limited, especially early on and mainly consist of you running away from the pesky blighters.
Each area you get to has a further EMMI and you can get an upgrade to put an end to them but it is a once use thing in each zone. Until you find it though, you must use your skills gained so far, your abilities and just general legging it to get around them without getting caught. It’s all a bit cat and mouse at times and quite stressful, in a good way.
My favourite thing about Dread is how it respects your intelligence and encourages exploration. There are no waypoints or markers. You are left to just explore and take mental notes, then when you stumble on an upgrade you get that ‘lightbulb’ moment and backtrack to previously inaccessible areas. The map does help by noting types of doors and even lets you add your own markers for future reference.
The controls for Dread are in line with the older games while taking in some modern nuances. You have full 360-degree control of your blasters and rockets, really precise and responsive jumps and a multitude of abilities to play with. The controls, especially in a game like this are paramount and Metroid Dread does not disappoint. I never felt hard done by or let down and it never felt unfair.
Another thing I would love to talk about is the great bosses, apart from one slightly irksome hulking beast, I found all the bosses well designed, fun and they looked superb. Gruesome creatures, screen-filling beasts and an all manner of weirdness await you. You know these bosses are awesome too by the way when you first fight them you think “What!”, “I am never doing that!”, then several minutes later you have felled the beast and it was nowhere near as bad as you thought. Metroid Dread has awesome bosses.
Crisp, Clean and Beautiful
Graphically, I think this is one of the better-looking games on the Nintendo Switch. It’s bold, bright and has a very clean image quality, even on the small Switch Lite screen that I was playing on. Samus, especially in her armour looks great and the EMMI’s are amazingly animated and eerily freaky at times.
Sound-wise, to go along with the slightly scary EMMI enemies is a gruesome and sombre soundtrack. Just as you think you are in the clear you get this little piece of music to let you know when one is close, it makes your pulse race, it makes your hairs stand on end and a good signal to start running. I must say, on both the visual and sound front, Metroid Dread is superb.
Metroid Dread also runs beautifully. It’s smooth as butter, which is needed for some of the E.M.M.I counter-attacks and escape attempts. I had no issues, zero bugs and was just left to be assassinated over and over by those limbering, robotic nuisances. It is always nice when you can just enjoy a game without worrying about performance and I feel it’s sometimes overlooked these days.
Game of The Year Potential
Metroid Dread goes straight into my top games of the year and quite close to the top too. I will have to see how I feel about it after the dust has settled but it’s brilliant, respects the player’s intelligence and is downright gorgeous. If you’re a fan of the older 2D Metroid games then it’s a no-brainer, even if not, I think few players will be disappointed with this purchase. Right, I have a few errant collectables to track down. Wish me luck!
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
If you would like to buy Metroid Dread from the Nintendo eShop, you can here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.