It is frequently said that simplicity is best. While this statement is hardly a blanket one (music springs to mind),it is frequently the case for game mechanics, shooting should be as fluid as possible, the movement shouldn’t be a chore and don’t put something in a game that does something which can already be done but more efficiently.
Morphblade is a game that has taken this message to heart and has its mechanics simplified to a tee, none of them render others pointless and all of them have their own distinct uses and pitfalls. What started as a simple concept of hex based movement and dodging/killing enemies changes into something much more complex by introducing many simple mechanics that don’t sacrifice the core concept of the game.
Premise wise, there is none. No plot that progresses as you play, no reason as to why you can morph, no motivation to kill enemies other than they’re trying to do it too. But it doesn’t need a reason, some of the most iconic games were built with no plot or motives in mind, do we know why Pac-Man was so invested in eating those pellets, why the Doom Marine lives solely to kill demons or why Tetrominos loved being arranged in lines so much that they disappeared? No, of course we don’t, although I wonder what a Tetromino would say if it could talk.
Progress is marked by new hexes, generated around the unlocked ones after each wave of enemies, allowing you to pick one of those generated with each randomly holding one of six symbols on it. All of the symbols do completely different things, none of which cross over, making it even more useful when you upgrade a space. This is achieved by killing a certain number of enemies with it, or by killing a special black enemy on it. The upgrades available are dependant entirely on what surrounds the hex, meaning you have to be careful what you activate and where. Each upgrade works as a kind of synergy, with each type adding a different ability to the base hex that can vary depending on its base type (hope you’re still with me).
Even enemies work on simple mechanics but the complexity lies in the subtle differences with each type, with multiple types on screen at once requiring a lot of strategising. The enemies come in any combination of three heads, two bodies, two tails and with or without armour (That makes twenty-four enemy variations in all), all of which operate in different ways and requiring slightly different strategies to get rid of them.
So do you see my point? All these mechanics are simple and non-redundant, yet all of this put together make for a complex, well-balanced experience that one can pick up for five minutes and put down. In that regard, I would consider it ideal for a mobile experience, lord knows the mobile gaming market needs some decent titles to counter all the free-to-play shovelware shit that gets crammed down our throats on the IOS or Play storefronts.
This does raise the argument of whether or not it holds enough variety or replay value to want to sit down at a desktop/laptop to play, I have not had a play session longer than twenty minutes, but maybe that’s its purpose, a little distraction to play with for a few minutes in between tasks. Indeed the game itself was born out of an idea its developer, Tom Francis (maker of the excellent Gunpoint) came up with whilst making his upcoming game, Heat Signature (I’m not sponsored by this guy, honest) which makes the whole game a distraction in and of itself, indeed I’ve played a few rounds in breaks from writing this review, none of which have played out the same, and considering the amount of RNG (which in this case makes a fair amount of sense) I’m hardly surprised.
If I could I’d write more, but that’s it really, there’s nothing more to be said about this game and there’s nothing wrong with that in the slightest. It’s a nice little snack of a game that you can play between sessions smacking the gimp in the basement… maybe I said too much. If you want to see how the game plays, I made a video on my channel about it which you can watch below.