Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: Meteos


Meteos represents a surprising collaboration between two 'amateurs' in the game industry: Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Mashuhiro Sakurai. The former is best known for his work on Rez and Child of Eden but also contributed to Space Channel 5, Lumines and other games that all sound as a primary communication of synesthesia in his video games. The latter is best known for working on the Kirby series as well as Smash Bros (As well as Kid Icarus: Uprising which I know a lot of people here at Portable Platypus are fond of), all of which have very accessible gameplay that may lack depth but more than make up for in content (Super Smash Bros Melee is the quintessential example of this philosophy). I can't really say I'm that big of a fan of either developer but I guess that's a testament to how amazing Meteos really is.

One of the things that gives this game such a bizarre charm is not just the fact it has a plot in the first place but that the plot is so unnecessarily surreal. The evil planet Meteo is trying to destroy the many worlds of the galaxy by sending down coloured blocks called meteos. The planets' residents realise that by combining three of the same colour blocks they can retaliate against the evil planet. This backstory is told through text boxes on the top screen and messy crayon drawings on the bottom screen that seems somewhat appropriate given how crazy the game is.

If you've ever played Lumines then you can already form the basic idea of Meteos. For one thing Meteos should be used as a framework for what I like to call "holistic design." Every component of the game complements the gameplay. Each stage represents a different planet. Each planet features a new texture of the meteos blocks but most importantly has different forces of gravity acting on the blocks. Along with this each stage represents a different composition of music: Luna Luna represents a soft jazz score, Fortuna is where you want to go for a more classical medley and the heavy metal medley couldn't be more fitting for the final boss Meteo.

This is the crux of Meteos. Every single element of the game compliments each other, and a removal of any element would be a great detraction. This can be said of all games but with Meteos the game is so meticulously crafted that you can't imagine the game being made any other way (Disney Meteos and Meteos Wars is proof that changing the game in any way causes it to be borderline unplayable). This goes back to Sakurai and Mizuguchi's involvement. Mizuguchi did something similar in Lumines where advancing through the game caused the background to change colour, the music to increase in tempo or even change altogether. It was admittedly pretty and the music is standard Mizuguchi greatness but this detracted from the game at hand. Meteos puts the action front and center and makes the meteos interact with the music, the pace of the game controlling the game, as though the entire game were a conductor's baton dictating the rhythm of the game.

In conclusion, Meteos is the closest thing there will ever be to a Tetris equivalent of Space Invaders Extreme or Pacman: Championship edition, classics that have been reinvented for the 21st century and actually succeed in improving on the original. Like those games, Meteos contains a ton of replay value through its 2 modes: Simple, which is a one on one battle with a planet of your choice, and Mission, which is a more story-based/choose your own adventure, which allows you to challenge harder planets if you succeed the mission goals. Whether Meteos actually succeeds in being better than Tetris is debatable. I'd argue that unlike Space Invaders and Pac Man, Tetris does deserve its recognition as one of the greatest games of all time. What it does succeed in being is another rare game that only the DS could produce and a testament to how, even in this world of triple A FPSs, you can still make a clever, efficient, and most importantly of all, fun puzzle game.

Find Meteos on ebay | Amazon

Released: 6/27/2005
Publisher: Bandai
Developer: Q Entertainment


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