Review – Macbat 64
I am pretty sure you’re already tired of me saying that 2017 was a great year for 3D platformers, that lots of games have managed to recapture the spirit of the 90’s, and so on. I swear this will be the last time I write an opening paragraph for a review this way this year, but there’s no other way to make an opening statement for Macbat 64, given the fact that this game, while far from being an actual good title, was a tremendous nostalgia bomb for me.
Macbat 64 is a little passion project developed by one single person, with the sole help of someone else to compose the soundtrack. It’s a game completely meant to resemble a title from the Nintendo 64 era, and it does succeed in this area. Macbat 64 looks identical to any Rare game from that era, with the typical stretched textures, colorful visuals, Comic Sans-esque texts, and cartoonish anthropomorphic animals with huge eyes. The game’s soundtrack also tries to emulate Grant Kirkhope’s tunes from back in the day, with the same style of melodies, as well as very similar MIDI sounds being used. All in all, it looks and sounds like a rejected Rare prototype from 1998, but it doesn’t mean it plays like one. It’s also nowhere near as good as games from this era. Ok, maybe better than Earthworm Jim 3D, but that’s a low bar.
Macbat 64 has as many problems as it has redeeming factors. The aforementioned Nintendo 64 graphics look pretty convincing to the era, but the game also features a myriad of visual glitches, something you wouldn’t even expect from a game from that decade. The soundtrack, while loyal to the style of your typical Rare game, doesn’t sound nearly as good or memorable. The game also suffers from a complete lack of sound effects, with the exception of an occasional voice clip (one of them being by Grant Kirkhope himself, weirdly enough), and very subpar animal noises.
The game’s controls are a bit clunky. All you use here are the WASD keys for movement and the mouse’s left button for jumping. Sounds simple enough, right? In theory, yes: this is far from being something like Donkey Kong or Banjo-Tooie, as the level design is very simple and straightforward, and there are no enemies for you to fight against. Run and jump, like the good old days. The biggest problem here is also the biggest problem in basically every single 3D platformer from that era, the camera controls. They’re as clunky and cumbersome as any other game from the era, with the addition of the already somewhat clunky controls themselves.
Regarding the gameplay, Macbat 64 shows how different it is from its sources of inspiration. The game was obviously developed with a very small budget, and that shows in its core objectives. Instead of being a proper collectathon, Macbat‘s levels have a beginning and an end. The objective in each level is the same: find a key in order to proceed to the next one. Most levels require you to collect four items in order to redeem this key, be it batteries to power up a DeLorean or balloons in order to remove a cage. Those “quests,” if you can even call them that, are much easier than you’d think, requiring little to no effort in order for them to be completed. Sometimes you’ll just need to jump through a series of platforms. Other times you’ll need to find a small item and trade it with a NPC that’s literally located a few feet away from it. Macbat tries to diversify a bit by also adding a racing level and a 2.5D sidescrolling level, which were the highlights of the game. Despite all this, the main problem here is the fact the game is short. Really short. You can beat the game in an hour, or even less if you know where to go. Levels are ridiculously small, some of them being less than 5 minutes long. There are very few enemies and little to no challenge involved. There are no extra items or anything to explore in a level once you’ve finished it, so once you beat the game, there’s little to no reason for anyone to revisit it.
I need to give credit where credit is due. Macbat 64 succeeds in emulating the feel of a game from twenty years ago, and it does have some interesting ideas, but as much as I want to praise the sole developer for making this entire game (but the soundtrack) on his own, it’s still a somewhat glitchy title than can easily be beaten in an hour, or maybe even less if you know what you’re doing. Points for effort, I guess.
Would I recommend this game? That’s a tough question: the game is far from being offensively bad, and it costs less than a burger, but it is also shorter than an average episode of your favorite Netflix series. Maybe at a discount?