Mystic Melee Early Access Review
As PC gamers, whenever we see the words “early” and “access” used in the same sentence, a part of us dies—likely that one that took 30,000 souls to upgrade. Steam’s program, which has developers making their “in-progress” titles available to the public, has become a staple of unprofessionalism thanks to abandoned products and immature creators.
While the idea is great (allowing fans to closely follow development while providing feedback in real time), its execution is rough at best, with a handful of success stories suited for our baby processors before bed. Slime Rancher, Don’t Starve, Kerbal Space Program, and Darkest Dungeon are easily the most recognizable titles to come out of Early Access to critical acclaim, but there are also a number of smaller titles Steam users should pay attention to. Available on September 19, Mystic Melee might just be one such game.
Mystic Melee is an action platformer developed by newcomer Ben Hopkins and much like other games in the genre, it attempts to flip the formula set in stone by a certain Italian plumber so many decades ago. It features your usual elements such as platforms (of course), spiky traps (obviously), and strategically placed enemies (duh). It also makes use of Mega Man’s iconic wall jump and counts with interesting power-ups. The game is set in an apparent distant future where magic and technology go hand in hand. While training, one magic trainee witnesses the return of a dark force and now it’s up to him and his colleagues to stop this evil from taking the galaxy. There’s nothing particularly exciting about the story or the characters themselves, but that’s a good thing since the selling point is the gameplay.
With basic platforming elements, it seems Hopkins’ intention was to make Mystic Melee a fast-paced game, a mix of Sonic and Shantae if you will. This easily noticeable at sections free of enemies or where the placement of traps calls for precision. Yet, as soon as these sections are over, the pace turns to a craw thanks to bulky controls, a cooldown system that doesn’t seem to have a place in such a game, and unforgiving hitpoints unsuitable for the intended action mechanics. There are moments when precision plays a key role in collecting energy (in a way, Melee’s version of Mario’s coins) and thanks to how rough the controls are, I found myself either missing some of the packets or the entirety of them. Other mechanics such as the downwards speed-up make sense on paper but struggle to be realized in practice. It’s possible to get used to these problems and they shouldn’t be a major concern since this is an Early Access title. However, Mystic Melee’s most concerning issue is the combat.
I get the idea of a fast-paced platformer with a satisfying fast-paced combat. Unfortunately, the game’s pace is completely ruined thanks to the presence of cooldowns. Every character has a regular attack available from the start. How many hits you can deal per combo depends on the character; some will allow you to hit twice while others will only deliver one hit no matter how many times you press the corresponding key. Then, the attack, whether it’s the regular or one of the two special action you can grab throughout levels, will enter a cooldown period that takes longer than necessary. To anyone wanting to get rid of enemies either for completion’s sake or to keep the path clean, levels may take longer than usual due to how combat is meant to slow down instead of assisting progress.
Thankfully, the single-player campaign is not the only thing Mystic Melee has to speak for. Multiplayer (which features both local and online modes) is likely to become its primary selling point seeing the feature’s popularity these days. From what I could gather (the game wasn’t available to the public when I attempted to test online multiplayer), multiplayer focuses on the characters and their abilities rather than structured levels and a leaderboard based on performance. With a static map and a basic objective that puts players against one another, the cooldown system isn’t as threatening to the experience as observed in the campaign. Rather, it becomes an interesting addition that sets Mystic Melee apart from other sidescrolling multiplayer games and their non-stop action. It can be an interesting aspect if tweaked properly during the Early Access phase, for multiplayer just as much as single-player.
Despite its current flaws, which early customers will witness for themselves, Mystic Melee presents a potential that could turn it into a popular single-player challenge as well as an affordable party game. Developed by Ben Hopkins and published by Serenity Forge, Mystic Melee becomes available in Steam Early Access on September 19.
- Solid gameplay
- Classic graphics
- Good starting on Early Access
- Weak story
- Slow pace