Last night, I played perhaps the best Metroid game since Zero Mission — and it wasn’t even made by Nintendo.
Created by a small group of indie developers, “construct programmer Tokinsom, artist Betatronic, and music composer Jamie Billings,” Minitroid is exactly what it sounds: a mini Metroid. While only a free to download “tech demo,” I found Minitroid to be rather brilliant. Comprised of three decently sized interconnected areas filled with enemies, secrets, and upgrades, just as you would find in any entry in the series. On top of that, Minitroid controls like a dream, and the animations of the super-deformed versions of Super Metroid-era Samus and monsters are smooth. Samus’ run is especially charming. I also have to point out, while not necessarily a major part of the game, the room panning is goddamn buttery.
As far as major Metroid gameplay themes — areas with secret items, upgrades for Samus to find, challenging level design, and non-linear maps to explore — they’re all here. Adhering more towards the original Metroid‘s sense of isolation and obtuseness. Upgrades aren’t explained, and these is no map nor pause screen. However, Minitroid has a surprising level of depth for just a little game (MAYBE a couple hours, tops, to find and see everything). I didn’t even realize Samus started the game with the charge beam ability until I randomly tried about 15 minutes into the first area. I love mechanic exploration like that. I mean sure, it’s a Metroid game and I should expect it, but I was happily surprised and rewarded for my curiosity. And in a free game that only a few dudes made and takes about a lunch break to beat, no less. Pretty cool.
Minitroid also features a fun, catchy (albeit repetitive) chiptune soundtrack that add to the retro feeling, while giving the bite-sized ‘troid its own aural identity. It also has a pitch-perfect title screen, replete with an original take on the classic Metroid music.
No word yet on sequence breaks, however.
Sure, Minitroid may be mostly a nostalgia-driven love letter to the Metroid series, but there’s something more than that here, too. Minitroid proves that not only can a small team really come up with something awesome, but that the Metroid formula is something special. I’ve been pining for a new Metroid game for years (I am quietly and stubbornly still ignoring Other M). While not a full-on entry to one of the best videogame series of all time, for a tiny project like this it comes damn close. Seriously, I have half a mind to put this on my best games of 2012 list, despite it being released last year and only being a “tech demo” (psh, formalities). Go play it!
Dang, and Street Fighter x Mega Man hits today… guess Christmas has come a week early!
Also, if you enjoy Minitroid and/or Street Fighter x Mega Man, be sure to check out the free, fan-made Smash Bros game, Super Smash Land!