Saving The World For All The Right Reasons?

HIGH Great action, intense boss fights, and amazing assist modes for inexperienced players.

LOW An unsatisfying ending. It’s not a memorable experience.

WTF What’s with all the cheesecake?

I first played Metal Unit during a rough stretch in my personal life.  The details don’t matter, but the point is that there was a significant delay between playing the game and writing this review.  I bring this up because when I started writing, I had only vague recollections — I actually had to replay the entire story mode to remember even the most basic story beats.  I thought that might have to do with what I was dealing with, but it turns out that despite some fantastic assist settings and decent action, Metal Unit simply isn’t that memorable.

Players take on the role of Joanna, an up-and-coming pilot completing her training in the use of the M-Unit battlesuit.  These suits grant their pilots tremendous strength and access to humankind’s best weaponry in the fight against foes.  However, Joanna is fighting for more than Earth’s freedom from invasion — she’s also battling against the stigma of her sister’s betrayal as she stole an M-Unit and took up arms against her own people. 

There’s a lot to unpack in Metal Unit‘s story, and starting in medias res the way it does only makes things tougher to comprehend.  It also doesn’t help that a great deal of the backstory is only available by collecting various MacGuffins hidden in the levels.   

Thing become considerably more straightforward when taking control of Joanna’s M-Unit.  Metal Unit plays like a fairly standard 2D action-platformer.  Joanna must clear each level of all enemies before making her way to the opposite side of the map to move on to the next stage. Levels vary in the amount of platforming required, and there’s also light puzzle solving when trying to access hidden areas. 

Metal Unit‘s combat is fast and frenetic, with hordes of enemies sometimes filling the screen, firing weapons in all directions.  Fortunately, Joanna’s M-Unit allows her to evade projectiles using a handy boost feature which can eventually be upgraded to allow her to counter-attack upon a successful evasion.  Boss battles are suitably epic, with screen-filling monstrosities to defeat — and I’m a sucker for a good screen-filling monstrosity. 

Over the course of the campaign, Joanna is able to acquire a ridiculous amount of weaponry, from simple slug-throwers and swords to enormous cannons, drones, and super powers that decimate enemies on screen.  Also, weapons gain experience points as they’re used, which makes them… better somehow?  I think it has something to do with retaining weapons in inventory if Joanna is killed, but it was never clear to me, despite beating the game twice. 

In terms of challenge, Metal Unit can be punishingly difficult. A player should be prepared to die early and often as enemies are relentless, often well-defended, and capable of absolutely wrecking Joanna within seconds. Many weapons, puzzles, and secrets are completely missable, even across multiple playthroughs.

Despite Metal Unit leaning into difficulty, the folks at JellySnow must be commended for the many assists they allow players to access at any time.  Those struggling, or those not wishing to grind for weapons or upgrades can simply choose to unlock equipment from the beginning, have unlimited health potions (or plain invulnerability if so desired), or add the ability to multi-jump to their heart’s content, allowing faster access to some of the cooler secret locations. 

While these assists aid players who simply want to see the story, the post-game content allows those really seeking a challenge to flex their gaming muscles.  In an interesting take on New Game+ mode, players can repeat earlier stages while inhibiting their character in some way, up to and including a permadeath option. 

While I find it laudable that all of these options are available to players, I just wish they were attached to a better package.  The story is too chaotic and comes with a payoff I didn’t find satisfying, and the combat is not spectacular enough to be noteworthy.  Completionists can try to find every hidden nook and cranny, but the game isn’t compelling enough to warrant it. This is good work, but it’s lacking that certain something that would push it into ‘great’ territory.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by JellySnow Studio and published by NEOWIZ. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Violence. The official ESRB Description reads as follows: This is an action game where the player kills fantastical alien enemies.  These enemies spray pixelated blood when killed.  These blood effects can be completely turned off in the options menu, but during cutscenes, the blood is evident on defeated foes.  The game depicts crucifixion-type events which may be disturbing to certain players.  There are no language issues.  During menu screens, the protagonist may be depicted in moderately provocative poses.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The game’s dialogue is completely text-based.  Enemies may attack from off-screen, but there are visual cues that give as much warning as the audio. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

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