Megatroid's [Free] levels keep surprising me. They're almost universally well-designed, with branching paths and hidden rewards, healthy smatterings of enemies, and new and exciting insta-kill traps every so often. And the difficulty curve is really quite good. Aside from the occasional out-of-place spike, the enemies do a great job of keeping pace with my character's skills. These might be the sorts of things you'd expect from a Mega Man-style platformer, but there's a reason I'm impressed: Megatroid's levels are randomly generated.
To launch a new level you enter a word, or a phrase, or a string of gibberish. The game takes that random seed and spits out a unique level. It's a cool feature, and it helps keep this free-to-play game feeling fresh.
There are limits to the randomness. For example, every level looks pretty much the same. They don't play the same, but you'll run into the same platforms, the same deadly red spikes, the same walls and above all, the same enemies. The pieces may come apart and be put back together in exciting new forms, but they're the same pieces every time. How long you can tolerate that fact will depend on your temperament, but at least there are surprises to see throughout Megatroid's length.
The platforming itself is iffier. This falls under the curse of virtual buttons: it's way too easy to miss the left and right arrows when you need them most, or shoot when you want to jump. Jumping when you want to shoot is less deadly, at least. The double jump can also be frustrating: you jump higher with a quick double-tap than you do by waiting till the apex of your first jump, and that just doesn't feel right.
When it counts, the randomness of the game fades into the background. There's a story about taking down an evil robot empire. It involves hunting boss monsters and liberating data with your little drone buddy S.P.A.K.K. As it progresses, so do you, unlocking new tiers of equipment and a new ability or two along the way.
Equipment is the thing that will, hopefully, keep Trilolith Entertainment afloat. You earn credits in-game at a steady clip, and you can spend them on pretty good equipment. Or you can purchase SpaceBucks for much, much better stuff. Up until the game's midway point I didn't see need to pay. If you're better than I am, you might be able to beat the boss that's found there with standard equipment. I didn't pull that off until I found myself with a shiny, costly new gun.
Otherwise the game really is free to play, and with an infinite variety of levels you can play as much as you could possibly want. Your progression halts at each boss you reach and the story content only lasts through ten character levels so far, but it sounds like there are plans in the works for much more.
If it weren't for the dodgy controls and interface, Megatroid would be a top-tier game. And since the game is under ongoing development, I wouldn't be surprised to see those tweaked and improved as time goes by (ideally along with a few lingering bugs). As problems go, an awkward and rough-looking interface isn't significant, and the controls are only an issue in the rare moments the game demands a lot of precision. Mostly it's fast-paced enough that a little sloppiness doesn't hurt.
Best of all, it's a lot of entertainment for free. As much as you could want, really, since the levels never stop coming. Eventually they'll get old, but why not have some fun in the meantime? Shooting down robots, leaping over deadly traps, deciding when to run and when to fight—it's a great time while the fun lasts. Take up your gun, fight the empire, and do it all without spending a dime. Sounds like a deal to me.
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