MorphX Review

While everyone was at the NYCC the last week and playing new games and seeing all sorts of cool things, I was stuck over in Europe and went to the Edelweiss Mountains and did all sorts of hiking. Not so fun when you’re afraid of heights. Guess who’s afraid of heights?

After I returned home, I went to my local game shop and found two things that caught my eye: A fresh copy of Odin Sphere for a mere five dollars, and MorphX, a game that I completely have not heard of going for the pretty reasonable price of $30.

I purchased both games without hesitation and went home later that evening sort of excited to play a game and not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I should have just left with Odin Sphere.

Right of the bat we’re treated by yet another tough, grizzled, and gravelly voiced main character narrating the prologue of the game. From what I was able to gather, the game is set in a grim future where an alien species has invaded and destroyed most of the earth. Apparently the aliens were able to wipe out most of the countries in a single day, but for some reason, just kind of dicked around for about five years in Moscow or something until our “hero” decided to do something. Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to know what exactly our hero was trying to do, because he wakes up in a cave with no memory as to who he is or what he was doing in the cave in the first place. I’ve played through the game and even checked the instruction manual to see if this guy has any sort of identity. Since my super duper research yielded no results, I’m going to refer to the main character as “Morphin’ Mike” from now on.

After a short while, Mike gets rescued by his fellow Russian comrades and almost immediately after that is attacked by his fellow Russian comrades because they think he’s an “infiltrator.” The game uses this word a couple of times but it doesn’t really tell you just what an infiltrator is. Leaving you confused seems to be a running theme with this game or something because I never knew what I was doing or why I was doing it.

The movement controls are kind of janky, and there’s no ability to walk or slow down, so just lightly nudging the analog stick forward sends Mike into a full run in whichever direction you chose. This wouldn’t be that much of a problem if the game didn’t try to put some awful precision plat-forming segments in most levels with the fact that Mike isn’t a very good jumper.

Shooting at enemies tends to flip between rather decent at times to just horrible for a few reasons. The aiming reticule has a tendency to auto lock onto the closest enemy. It’s not a weak auto-lock like most shooters have either; the thing practically sticks right onto an enemy so even if you try to aim a bit to the right, the reticule will just snap right back to the enemy. It later becomes really annoying when you have to aim around enemies or when there are a large number of them on screen and Morphin’ Mike insists on shooting the monster that is the least threatening to you. There are a few sections where the game requires you to hop on a mounted gun and shoot down a large amount of enemies. These are by far the least challenging parts of the game. No joke, you can complete most of these parts by just aiming down the middle of the screen and firing nonstop thanks to the ridiculously powerful auto-lock system.

Melee combat is another matter entirely. It doesn’t require any real skill; you can just run right up to an enemy and just mash on the attack button a whole bunch to get the job done. Nothing in this game flinches though, so even when you’re wailing on them with a lead pipe they’ll still be shooting/stabbing you the whole time, though it’s no big deal though since enemies get progressively easier to take out as you get stronger.

The game doesn’t give you a nice selection of weapons really either, or any selection of weapons rather. During the time I spent with the game, I only found maybe four different types of melee weapons, and two different guns. But it doesn’t make a big difference really since they mostly have the same properties.

It makes even less of a difference when roughly two hours into the game, Mike… morphs… and permanently gets a blade grafted to his arm making me wonder why I spent my time looking for these weapons. And later, you have no need for guns because Morphin’ Mike does his thing again and gets an arm cannon and plasma grenades. Neither of which ever run out of ammo.

This makes me really confused, because even after you finish upgrading and have no need for ammo or weapons, the game still leaves tons of ammo crates and weapons lying around for you to not ever pick up.

This makes the difficulty another thing worth mentioning if this game.

The game gets progressively easier as you go on, but it’s not necessarily from skill. Mike gets stronger as he morphs and the monsters you fight don’t really change a whole lot in their power level. Running low on health was never an issue for me it would always regenerate outside of combat, and there are even health “biomasses” scattered around stages in case you ever needed some serious healing. They’re kind of like Half Life’s own health stations, except to use them you have to pause the game to go to a menu where you can decide how much health you want to take. The biomasses also can regenerate health so you can keep returning to them to get health back as many times as you want. And if the limitless supplies of health weren’t enough, whenever you kill an alien you can absorb them and get health back also.

Mike acquires his abilities by absorbing defeated enemies. There’s a fair amount of alien abilities to use, though the usefulness of these powers range from annoyingly helpful to completely worthless. The first ability you get (and probably the most “useful” of the bunch) is Alien Vision. It basically lets you see in the dark and find secrets. You pretty much always have to have this activated all the time because level environments are incredibly dark. It’s worse in later stages when nearly everything in a level is the exact same color.

Early on it’s really annoying to use because it drains so much of your energy just to have it activated for five seconds. Though in an interesting design choice, after Mike morphs for the final time, nearly all of your abilities no longer require any energy to use. Making the Alien Vision a whole lot like Arkham Asylum’s Detective Mode, only less cool, green, and more painful to look at.

Seriously, I’m willing to bet money that I spent probably 85% of my time playing this game with this activated.

The other power-ups aren’t nearly as valuable as Alien Vision. Rage mode slows things to a crawl and forces you to only melee attack your foes. The catch is that when you land a successful attack in Rage mode, you get a nice chunk of health back. Using Rage mode pretty much eats up your energy bar completely though, so it serves no real purpose until later in the game when enemies start doing a bit more damage.

There’s also an energy shield you can get and some kind of mind control thing but I seriously never used them when I played the game outside of situations where the game forced me to use them.

You can upgrade these by using this pipe works type of connection thing using any of the genes you’ve collected from other biomasses. It’s a bit like that mini-game that you see every once in a while where you have those pipes and they’re all jumbled and you have to connect them in a way so some fluid can safely pass through them? Yeah, it’s kind of like that but less engaging, but honestly, this is the most fun part of the game.

Kind of like Bioshock's hacking minigame, but not as cool.

To actually upgrade an ability you have to connect these red and green globules together. To connect them you have to use any of the genes you’ve found while running through the stages. For each ability, the map layout is different, and I sort of looked at it as a fun little test to find the most efficient way to connect them using what little materials I had. I also had a slight addiction to finding genes hidden in levels so I could go back to the mini-game and upgrade by skills. The fun pretty much stopped there though.

Level layout is pretty bad. I’ve found myself running into identical hallways way too often. For some reason near the end of the game, the creators decided to throw some puzzles at you. They’re built exactly like the pipe works thing you use to upgrade your powers. They aren’t terribly difficult either, just big wastes of time. It’s like someone realized that the game was going to be too short so they just threw in a bunch of these stupid puzzles as filler.

Enemies also have this really annoying habit of spawning directly behind you, attacking you and then running away really fast forcing you to chase them down before killing them making it a hassle to just advance in the stage.

It sounds like I’m bashing this game, but actually the game is more boring than anything else. It seems like a game with decent enough ideas that didn’t exactly work out well when put to use. Though there are dozens of other games that fit that same description, what makes MorphX so special?

Well, nothing really.