Having played video games for a substantial part of my life, sometimes, it’s the simple things that bring me joy. In a time where every game wants to consume all of your free time, roguelikes from indies have formed a large part of the gaming landscape. They usually take the simplest of ideas and turn it into an incredibly addictive experience. Metal Mind, from Whirllaxy, is another such title looking to capitalise on the trend.
Metal Mind takes inspiration from the likes of Enter the Gungeon and the Binding of Isaac. It blends solid twin stick shooting, with randomised weapons and a selection of buffs to deliver a fun, if slightly grindy experience. As is expected in these kind of games, it’s slow going at the start. The weapons and character are weak, but through perseverance, collecting currency and investing in upgrades, things begin to loosen up.
Players take control of a fully modifiable robot. Weapons and body parts can be swapped out with things found in boxes or bought from a store. Better bodies improve armour capacity and health. Cores improve batteries for specials. Legs provide better weight capacity, movement speed and a variety of dodging options. Weapons start as basic pistols and machines guns but you will gradually find (and unlock) more exotic tools of destruction. My personal favourites are the Corgi launcher that splits into an arc when the weapon overheats, and the lock on multi rocket launcher. Special shout out also goes to the mining laser. It might not do a ton of damage, but its continuous beam and ability to bounce round corners to explode enemies is glorious!
In lieu of a reloading weapons, Metal Mind adds an overheat/cooldown mechanic. Firing your weapon continually builds up a heat meter. Once you tip into the overheat area of the bar, weapons get additional buffs. A grenade launcher might cause burn damage or maybe the ammo splits on impact causing a bigger area of effect. Keep pushing it though and the wepaon will flame out, rendering is uselss until it fully cools down. They all have different heat build up and venting speeds so there are benefits and negatives to each. Luckily you can carry a second weapon to mitigate the issue, but cooldowns are generally quick enough and swap speed is so slow that I rarely used the option.
There’s also a multitude of passive upgrades to unlock during each run, as well as permanent buffs that can be bought at the hub where you respawm on death. These take the form the usual health and armour upgrades, as well as better attack and defense improvements. There’s little automatons to unlock, cooldown improvements, health and armour regeneration, passive flame throwers. Permanent changes you can make to levels. Body buffs and special abilites. Honestly, its all a bit much and not everything is clearly explained. Its gets a bit overwhelming until you start to understand what it all does.
All of this would be useless if the gameplay itself was poor. You go from room to room, murder everything in sight until you’re satisfied then its off to fight a boss. Movement is handled with the left stick, aiming on the right, firing on RT and dodging on LT. Aiming is relatively accurate but fine tuning isn’t great. The heat mechanics play into the general gameplay pretty well and as long as you’ve been upgrading, most rooms are easy enough to clear. That’s not to say this is an easy game. If you’re carrying the wrong loadout its easy to get overwhelmed by smaller enemies due to the numbers that spawn in.
One particular enemy who initally appears harmless became the bane of my life during some runs. A little ninja that goes invisible, appears somewhere random and then follows up with a lightning quick sword dash. On their own, they’re easy to dodge but difficult to land a hit on. In numbers, these guys suck as they close off all angles and strip the health and armour off you.
If you’re up for taking some risks, portals open up where you can take on various wave based battles. Others might give you a freebie at the expense of a debuff or removing a weapon. Its up to you of you do any of these but the rewards are often worth the risk.
Level design is a hard one to discuss. As is the case with most of these games, its entirely procedural, offering endless gameplay. Each floor has a different theme for each room and as I previously mentioned, a boss. The game is happy to mix up the order and some of them are tough going until you suss out their tells. Especially when a good few of them go full bullet hell mode.
The visuals have a nice pixel styled cyberpunk/steampunk aesthetic. Rooms are full of detail and textures. The enemies are well animated and have a bit of character to them. I really appreciated the way the player charcter model changed as body parts are swapped in and out.
I enjoyed my time with Metal Mind overall. It was hard going at the start but once everything started to click and I found my preferred upgrades it all came together. It also has that thing I always talk about and look for – “just one more go”. It doesn’t quite have the same draw as say, Hades or Vampire Survivors, but I definitely went to bed a bit later than intended a few times. The heat and body mechanics were interesting and made for a nice change to gameplay. Combat had a nice flow to it and the variety of weapons on offer rewarded experimentation. Metal Mind is a more than worthy addition to the genre.
- Rewarding gameplay
- Great weapon variety
- Challenging bosses
- Poorly explained upgrades
- Takes a while to make meaningful progress