Mobile Game of the Week: Meganoid 2 (Android / iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: <i>Meganoid 2</i> (Android / iOS)

Meganoid 2

Platform: Android / iOS
Developers: Orange Pixel
Release Date: 10/26/2012 (Android)—11/20/2012 (iOS)
Price: $2.49 (Android)—$1.99 (iOS)

George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg didn’t invent ancient temples, but they should still probably collect royalties from something like Meganoid 2. Videogames have run hog wild with the Indiana Jones aesthetic ever since 1982’s Pitfall. This year alone we’ve seen the Vita version of Uncharted, the Xbox 360 debut of Spelunky, and now Orange Pixel’s Meganoid 2. At this rate every jungle idol and long-forgotten pre-Christian fortress should’ve been plundered five times over by now.

Meganoid 2 doffs its rumpled fedora at another popular trend in gaming, too. It’s another brutally difficult, retro-styled platformer. So, again, it recalls Spelunky, but without the ever-changing rogue-like dressing. Think more Super Meat Boy, with short, discrete levels full of one-hit-kill obstacles to be navigated as punishingly as possible. In Meganoid 2 you’ll contend with rolling boulders, dart-shooting statues, crumbling platforms and every spike that has ever been built by mankind. It’s got more spikes than the pound, and slightly grazing a single one will immediately turn you into a skeleton. You don’t even lounge about waiting to decompose—one touch by anything and you’re just a pile of bones.

You maneuver through this madness by tapping three on-screen buttons. You can jump and walk either right or left. You can tap the jump button twice in a row to do a double-jump, which is absolutely vital to figuring out certain levels. Virtual buttons like these used to be my biggest problem with mobile gaming, but Meganoid 2’s controls are precise and responsive. They work wonderfully on a tablet, although it’s a tight squeeze on a phone. It still doesn’t feel as natural as a traditional controller, but the control scheme is perfectly acceptable.

After the first few levels there’s a lot of trial and error involved. You have to suss out every way you can die before finding a safe path. It’d be helpful if you could get at least a glimpse of the entire map before starting a level. It’d be even more helpful if there was some way to skip a level that you can’t otherwise pass. Nobody needs to experience any of these levels more than a couple dozen times, and yet you almost definitely will die at least that much on a few of them. Obviously unlocking the next level is the most important reward for finishing the previous one, but the difficulty turns into a big hopeless roadblock at times.

You’re graded on three factors with each level: making it to the exit, finishing in under twenty seconds, and finding the golden idol hidden in each level. Even once you successfully finish a level you’ll probably want to return to meet all three criteria. This is Meganoid 2’s equivalent to the three-star system familiar to Angry Birds fans and almost anybody who’s ever played a mobile game before.

Meganoid 2 is a fun but minor entry into both the “swashbuckling treasure hunter” and “absurdly difficult platformer” canons. It’s appropriately compulsive and regimented, perfect for killing twenty seconds on an elevator, but that “next level” allure isn’t strong enough to keep you up late in bed at the end of a long day.