So many games slap cyberpunk on the packaging, but Mechajammer has it on tap: this feels like a bona fide cyberpunk experience that can’t be justified in a review as it’s a grand experience with so many paths, shortcuts and back alleys to take. Where’s the narrative GPS?
If you like squares and Jean Michel Jarre, you’ll love the visceral mood this gives. First impressions were: ooh, this is very pixely with some crunchy synths. Neither are ingredients I seek, but combined, they set the scene immediately, and it was one of those rare games of absorption from the get-go.
Have you ever played Syndicate? That’s how I felt about Mechajammer: a return to the classic sci-fi game, yet a unique take. However… Syndicate was a game I played in the olden days on the Amiga; times have changed, as has tech. Whalenought Studios’ game seems to be stuck in the past – both the graphics and UI. If you can get over that, or like that sort of aesthetic, great.
I didn’t like the art style at first, but the gameplay made up for that as it encourages exploration and creating your own adventure. Before the base game, I was the responsible type and did the tutorial: highly recommended. Besides learning the moves and mechanics, you’ll understand the difference between the stealth and combat method.
For me, combat was the weakest part in Mechajammer – notably the ranged attacks. Combat always feels like a no-brainer in tutorials, and while the melee approach falls into that category, you need to be much more attentive to where you shoot. Aiming at body parts, a la Fallout, will mean slowing down your enemy when hitting them in the legs or goolies or a headshot to stop them from getting their Neuralink implant. Naturally, the latter is harder to do, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, if you’re like me and anticipate clicking on said body part and hoping that your associated stat will guarantee a hit, think again. The accuracy in the game took some getting used to, and to be fair, I’m still not there yet. As this game is a fusion of turn-based and real-time action, you have to predict the path of an enemy, shooting them before they reach you. Suffice to say, I went the melee route as that was more manageable and perhaps more satisfying.
There are no visible objectives in the game, instead, an old school notepad. As an obsessive writer, that comes natural for me to apply my chicken scratch to envelopes and VAT receipts, but if you aren’t accustomed to this, you’re in for a shock. As a cyberpunk adventure, there’s lots of hacking and bypassing of security. If you come across passcodes or hints, you need to physically write them down. This is bound to irritate some, maybe alot, but I think this was marvellous, irrespective that it highlighted my poor problem-solving skills.
But enough of all that malarky, Mechahammer features character customisation – yay! You’ll create a character from the start and build up an origin story, applying both perks and flaws. Why give them flaws? Dem da rules, fam. If you’re a crusty like me and create an ‘old age’ character, you have the chance to add more perks, at the sacrifice of that being countered by other flaws such as eating any food you salvage immediately.
Action is turn-based, and the game employs a dice mechanic. The higher the stat, the more likely you’ll succeed – whether that be stealth-based or hacking related. Instead of XP to level your character up, you find text throughout the game that will allow you to invest further in your character. Balance some mercs to create a super squad to order and swap gear, and you’re sorted. As a lone wolf, I often gave them the guns and took a different route in the shadows. Cannon fodder.
Mechajammer is a mixed bag, and I can see it being divisive. My issues would be the combat element and also the UI. With an early copy of the game kindly provided, I encountered some bugs (a patch has since been issued) where the UI would stay on screen with text overlapping (and, sorry, a horrendous font choice). Though it’s not user-friendly or intuitive, if you have the patience and understand that this isn’t a pick-up and play arcade game, it’s rewarding and unlike anything else.
The notepad element is a notable highlight, and the overall atmosphere is gutsy and, as mentioned, like Syndicate. Again, this is a big compliment as I loved that game, but in fear of getting behind with my assessment, this is how I feel about it now. Review done, I’m going to keep chipping at this as it’s grandiose, in the proper context.