Thanks to my parents, I met Monty Python quite young. And a family watching an absurd British comedy together … has a lot of jokes. For example, every time we are, say, outside when it starts to rain and we all rush to the shelter, someone in my family will have to scream in a stupid voice, “Run! Run! ”That person was me while I was playing Metroid Dread, not only because it’s fun to say – it’s the only way to survive that game for the first hour.
Metroid Dread is the fifth 2D adventure (not counting the remake) and the first new 2D series in 19 years, since Metroid Fusion 2002. Still, I probably haven’t played a metroid game since the 80s or 90s, so I was happy to see that the basic formula hadn’t changed. It’s still a research game where you’re trapped in a series of underground structures and you have to find a way out by destroying enemies, blowing up walls and making your way through narrow passages.
The latter has at least been upgraded. Although you will eventually acquire Samus ’familiar morphing technique, at the beginning of the game you can instead slide through the tunnels by hitting L1. It’s kind of fun, except there’s a bit of a learning curve in determining which passages are for sliding and which are for rolling. As you unlock new abilities, you can, of course, revisit old locations to get to items you couldn’t get to the first time.
The story begins shortly after the end Metroid Fusion, with Samus Aran once again being called upon to find and destroy the parasitic beings known as the “X”. Knowing the previous game is not vital to understanding Dread, except that Samus can still absorb the X nucleus to replenish its energy, and it remains susceptible to cold. Both of these traits come into play fairly early in the game. Early on, Samus was attacked by what appears to be a super-powerful Chozo, losing his old equipment and abilities (which is a tradition). This brings her and the player back to square one, which certainly pulls out the story, but can frustrate longtime players. I understand why the game is doing this, but I’m still angry because it’s a big cliché at the moment. I can only hope that the payoff for the mystery of who this huge, unstoppable enemy is is worth it.
Honestly, it doesn’t seem like any of these old tools would help with the new hidden elements of the game. You see, the object is guarded by gangster giant robots called EMMI (“Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifier”) that will stab you in the neck if caught. It’s a pretty visceral animation, even if it’s cut before anything particularly bloody. You can try a close-range attack to shoot them down, but in my dozen or so close encounters with robots, I’ve never been able to act on tactics once.
Instead, the game introduces several new tools as you play to help you, such as a spider magnet that allows you to hold on to ceilings and other high surfaces. The most valuable ability we’ve seen so far in reviews is the cover-up field that will hide you from EMMI while consuming your energy (and ultimately, your life). But both, along with more powerful weapons, need to be picked up later in the game.
However, once you have arrived on the planet, the greatest survival tactic in your arsenal will be launched. Lots, lots of running and jumping and getting out of here. The game will somehow alert you when one of the robots is nearby, and you can try to stay just out of range. Blue field means it’s just around, yellow means it’s aware of your presence, and on red you better run hellish. It is best to go unnoticed, which is a task that is somewhat complicated by the fact that this stealth game lacks a lot of mechanics of hidden games. Squatting behind the box does nothing and you can’t slide along the wall to go unnoticed. EMMI also disagrees with the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy: It will follow you to another room, and if you slide into an area where I can’t follow, it will try to find a way to get in.
EMMIs are pretty fast, which makes the game itself pretty relentless. Several of my premature deaths were the result of the pursuit of one of the robots and my ignorance of where to go next. This game can be very unforgivable if you are just starting to explore.
Still, despite being a Metroid beginner, it was interesting to me. Even when they stabbed me in the neck several times, I always scanned the surroundings before the game darkened, looking for the point where I screwed up and I could have done better. I only had about 90 minutes of play, so I didn’t have the luxury of banging my head against the wall to figure it all out. But when Metroid Dread comes out on October 8th, I’m looking forward to having all the time to scream and … run, run, run.
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