Developer: Ninja Rabbit Studio
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre: Platformer, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on Xbox, PlayStation and Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 20/11/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Over the last few years, we have seen some exceptional Metroidvania games take the spotlight. Hollow Knight and more recently, the phenomenal Ori and the Will of the Wisps have pushed the genre forward in many ways. Unfortunately for Micetopia, developed by Ninja Rabbit Studio, it’s an adventure that has little going for it in comparison to its contemporaries. Let’s get into it.
A Mouse Adventurer
The game has you play as Rich, a courageous little mouse in the fantasy kingdom of Micetopia. He is interrupted while training to discover that nearly all the inhabitants of his village have been captured by monsters. It’s up to him to become the hero he aspires to be and save everyone.
It’s not the most exciting narrative hook by any means, coming off as bland and unoriginal. Rich must now explore the immediate surrounding area, defeating monsters and platforming around to find and save the other mice. It’s so basic and the story is barely there, that it ultimately ends up feeling rushed and lacking any sort of cohesion or thought. This wouldn’t be too big of an issue if the gameplay was solid. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here.
Let’s Go Exploring
Aside from the village at the start, which will be your hub area, there are two other sections you’ll explore. These are the caves and the forest. These maps are divided up into tile-like segments that are connected vertically and horizontally. This makes it fairly straightforward to navigate, which is a plus. It means you won’t be wasting time getting lost and not knowing where to head next.
Most of the segments include a handful of enemies, alongside simple platforming to progress. There really isn’t much variety to Micetopia’s overall design for the most part, which left me bored quite quickly. This really isn’t helped by the fact that when you die, you are transported back to the village. Having to retrace your route all the way back through the same enemies and locations isn’t enjoyable. Checkpoints are a thing, which takes the form of portals you activate to quickly move between the village and that section. However, these checkpoints are so far and few between and can only have one active at a time. It can lead to frustrating scenarios where you’ll die in the long journey before reaching a portal.
While exploring, you will also come across a number of secret areas that house fountain pieces, the collectable in this game. These really aren’t difficult to find and can stick out pretty obviously. A few bosses are scattered around the maps as well. These parts don’t really offer a break in the monotony, rather, are just slight branches of the same gameplay loop.
Like any Metroidvania-style game, combat is a key aspect of the experience. It’s unfortunate then that Micetopia fails to provide a satisfying system that really engages the player. Rich is equipped with a sword and later a bow, to fend off any creature. His range of attacks are as follows: swipe sword, jump and swipe sword, and shoot an arrow horizontally. That’s all there is to it. But quite frankly, the enemy AI is so bare-bones and easy to exploit, that it’s not necessary to have anything else.
This minimal approach to combat extends to the platforming and overall movement. Ironically, despite being a mouse Rich can often be clunky to control. However, it does get better later on once you unlock the ability to double-jump and roll. But for the latter, it isn’t that useful apart from being required for some progression. The boss encounters do attempt to shake up the gameplay somewhat, but just like the normal enemies, they were easy to overcome. The dragon fight especially felt so lacklustre, as it just hovered in place spewing fire periodically. It was a breeze to beat.
It feels like since there isn’t much challenge in the combat itself, other steps were taken to try and make it more difficult. One of these is the spread-out checkpoints and the other is the health bar. Rich only has three health, which makes him particularly fragile. Awkward enemy placement and hitboxes can sometimes make Micetopia feel unfair, as opposed to genuinely challenging. Hearts can sometimes be found in pots/barrels to restore health, as well as green gems to improve your sword damage once you rescue the blacksmith. These are also dropped from fallen monsters.
I just wish that much more was done to make Micetopia a fluid and consistent experience to play. Despite only being a few hours long, the monotonous gameplay does end up sticking out.
Retro Nostalgia Isn’t Enough
The biggest draw of Micetopia is the retro inspirations it proudly wears, and for good reason. The pixel-art will really tug on the nostalgia of players, which is chock-full of personality and charm. It highlights that you don’t need the latest and best graphics to look brilliant. This is equally true for the music. I really liked the chiptune sound which simply oozed even more of that retro-feel. It fits the tone of the game so well, it’s excellent.
On the flip side, this focus on nostalgia and old-school design can be an issue. For one, while the pixel graphics are cute, the lack of map variety makes exploration heavily repetitive. As there are only two areas (the caves and forest), there is very little variation aesthetically, amplified by the limited art style. The mechanics and overall design end up coming across as incredibly dated, falling far behind the gameplay of other modern releases. Because of this, it ends up being an adventure that retro nostalgia alone can’t save.
On the surface, Micetopia looks like an appealing Metroidvania inspired by videogames past. In reality, it’s an experience that spends so much time paying homage, that it fails to learn and differentiate from those it seeks to emulate. For £3.99, it might provide you with a short bit of retro-fill, but for me, it wasn’t enough.
There are glimmers of promise hidden within, but the lack of challenge masked by frustrating design just doesn’t leave a positive impression. Micetopia ends up being a trip down memory lane, but for a lot of the wrong reasons.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Micetopia from the PlayStation Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.