It is remarkably easy to pigeonhole any game one way or the other. Last year's No Man's Sky debacle highlighted the pressure on indie games and their creators from all conceivable angles, not least from an increasingly vocal, demanding and influential consumer base. Unfortunately, that particular game became a victim of its own hype. 14 guys from Guildford, UK were thrust into the limelight and their ambition made cheques their game simply couldn't cash - at least at launch. One year on, and it's starting to resemble the game that was proclaimed during the years of development. With this galaxy-sized elephant in the room addressed early on, Morphite, from Blowfish Studios and Crescent Moon, comes to the Switch bearing more than a passing resemblance to Hello Games' troubled title, but also has the added pressure of drawing comparisons with the newly resurrected Metroid series. While it is true that Morphite is a first person exploratory affair that will have you trekking across multiple randomly-generated planets, there's just enough to differentiate it from those two titles.
In search of the titular cosmic macguffin, you assume the role of young cadet Myrah as she seeks out various trinkets and meets different friends and foes on her quest to discover the mysteries of the galaxy, aided by a mechanical cat and her ageing mentor, Mr. Mason. While the plentiful voice acting adds personality and boosts the overall production values, it's inconsistent at best, with some awkward banter and sci-fi tropes. In terms of atmosphere, wandering round an eerily quiet planet is more effective than the functional cinematic and boss set pieces. Experiencing Morphite on a big screen (and through headphones) is absorbing, and is perhaps preferable to playing the game in handheld form.
The most immediately striking feature of Morphite is its art style. Bold low-polygon character models, scenery and architecture give the game an old school identity that made us wonder what a 3D Another World might look like. The colour palette varies greatly, with whites and grays on snow covered areas, vibrant yellow architecture and purple seaweed while you explore an underwater tunnel complex. The soundtrack is ambient and synth-based, which is unobtrusive but nicely varied.
You'll spend your time in Morphite hopping across planets where there is native flora and fauna to scan and sell, temples or caves to navigate and supplies to gather. The default controls might need tinkering to suit individual tastes, and scrolling through weapons can be cumbersome the more you get, but a menu can be brought up with L and finding your way through it is mostly pain-free. While crafting upgrades is hardly a necessity, saving up the game's currency - chunks - is probably more useful, as your ship gets damaged and a single tank of space gas won't get you very far; you'll have to stop regularly at space stations to refuel.
Traveling through space and between planets can trigger random encounters, such as conflict with an enemy ship, where you can retreat, bargain or choose to fight. Unfortunately each option is essentially a box of text and is of little consequence in the long run, so ends up being rather anticlimactic. Likewise, entering an asteroid field should test your piloting skills but due to the short draw distance, it feels like pressing the dodge button is just visually more interesting than controlling the ship. Scanning is a slow laborious process, made worse if you're trying to catalogue any moving creatures.
Navigating the cosmos is basic and straightforward, with your path clearly mapped out, but you can deviate whenever you want to explore or even take the odd sneaky shortcut - within reason, of course. Your ship will give you data about a planet's temperature, and you won't be able to survive in a toxic or hazardous environment. Touching down on such deadly worlds requires you to scour for the right resources and a randomly-located conversion pod to upgrade your suit.
Sticking solely to the campaign does have its benefits - as well as some disadvantages. There are a handful of interesting characters to meet, some cool architecture to traverse and bosses to take down. The regularly updated objectives will focus players looking to simply push the story forward, but wandering around the cosmos and taking on side missions adds to the sense of exploration and freedom - these activities are totally optional. However, as the peripheral planets in Morphite are randomly generated, they are sparsely populated in terms of resources and can add flab rather than muscle to your adventure. If you're a completionist or one that like upgrades, then there's that to go through as well.
Overall, Morphite will satisfy rather than thrill. It's unique aesthetic looks especially pleasing on a big screen, and the story is slow to start but does pick up. How long the game will keep interest you really depends on your criteria. Those looking for a 6-ish hour trek will find a solid if unspectacular adventure here, but it's impossible to shake the feeling that this is a largely low-key affair.
Take this game for what it is, not what it is enevitably become compared to and you'll have an engaging story and pleasant exploration-based experience - for the most part. During your travels it's really up to you how much you want to discover, catalogue and upgrade. Morphite isn't a bad little first-person adventure but thrill seekers looking for a stop gap before Metroid Prime 4 could end up feeling short changed; rather than cause your pulse to race this jaunt through the uncharted regions of the universe is quite laid back and curiously lacking in excitement. It ranks as an enjoyable - if sometimes pedestrian - adventure that you will ultimately get as much out of as you are willing to put in, but we fear a great many players will simply lose interest.