The venerable hobby of “games” has borne witness to innumerable robotic sprogs. Metallic Child attempts to be a definitive answer to the likes of Mega Man, Astro Boy and - most formidably of all - Mighty No. 9. We jest, of course. Inafune's infamous crowdfunded project (resulting in an incredibly mediocre game) isn't really competition for this one. We bring it up, though, because Metallic Child sort of reminded us of it. Wait, don't run off! We promise it's not a bad thing. You see, Metallic Child is an isometric Mega Man roguelite, as absurd as that sounds, with character designs that immediately bring Mighty No. 9 to mind. You pick a target, then head off into the game world to beat them up.
The roguelite elements are actually quite limited, to the point where we're not even sure if it's accurate to call it a roguelite. Rather than starting from scratch on every run, you'll only have one shot through to complete each level/dungeon; upgrades and boons found therein will be lost on death, but if you've cleared a level it will stay cleared. Arguably this very much stretches the roguelite definition; it's the use of randomised positive and negative stat changes that contribute to it. However, the risk of losing "time" is rather high, with each multi-floor stage taking a good hour or so to play through even at speed.
You see, you'll find "Cores" as you play through the game, which don't tell you their temporary function until you've installed them. As you've no doubt surmised, they could be good - add more damage to your attacks, etc - or they could be bad - reduce your movement speed, that sort of thing. The interesting wrinkle here comes from the fact that even the negative cores offer you valuable Bug Data that you can later spend on Super Cores, which remain active throughout your run.
Feedback is good and the controls are responsive. After picking a couple of weapons you'll head out into the dungeons (such as they are) and beat up enemy robots with absolute wanton violence. When using the "default" gauntlets you'll mash the Y button for standard one-two punches and hit A to perform a powerful uppercut that can launch enemies. You're also able to press X to grab enemies and throw them, which becomes an absolutely crucial part of your offensive toolset once you get used to it; launching opponents into walls stuns them long enough to deal some good damage, or flinging them directly into raging fires or other hazards will outright destroy them. You can dodge roll (or guard) using the L button, which makes for some taut, speedy and thrillingly close escapes.
Presentation is strong from the off, with a rather charming link to the player by means of the lead character, the unfortunately-named Rona, who communicates with you directly and instructing you on how you can help her. The view on your screen is also designed as though you are watching Rona through a camera, complete with "live" readout in the corner. It's a little thing, but it does lend a sort of verisimilitude to the anime-influenced proceedings. Movement is slick and feels polished, with a smooth 60fps framerate and clear, crisp picture quality even in handheld mode. Enemies and their projectiles also stand out over the scenery, so you won't find yourself dying due to muddy visuals as in a few other roguelites we've played (Curse of the Dead Gods, as good as it is, springs to mind). The soundtrack is quite good, too.
Metallic Child has all the ingredients, then, to be something of a stonker. And, in most regards, it is! As you move from room to room, it is undeniably fun and exciting to take on the myriad enemies, learn to dodge their attacks, explore the environments for lore tidbits, bonuses and upgrades and - ultimately - fight the rather spectacular and challenging bosses.
However, the combat is - effectively - the entire game. Every room you enter, as per Hades, will seal up and challenge you to batter its hostile inhabitants. The problem is, you beat them all in effectively the same way. While you can change weapons (including during combos), you're ultimately best off just spamming your throw attack, which seems to guarantee an S rank for each encounter. And that's OK - it's fun, for sure, but the environments don't vary much; though the solo developer has gone to the effort of making each area visually unique in some way, every stage is simply made up of larger rooms and corridors, with the occasional environmental hazard. It's not hugely inspiring in this respect, but the core gameplay is good enough that we could just about overlook it. Visual acuity is important, but so is variety.
Metallic Child delivers a compelling, dialogue-packed and seemingly fully-voiced quasi-roguelite anime adventure with quite some aplomb, and is certainly an impressive achievement from apparent solo dev Studio HG. The price is right and it's only some issues with repetitive gameplay that bring the title down a little. There's plenty to see and do and a meaty adventure to get stuck into, with "achievements" to unlock and permanent incremental upgrades to purchase with dropped currency as you smash your enemies to pieces. An impressive debut that's very clearly made by someone who understands how important feedback is to a game like this; it's a slick, exciting robot-smashing fest for your Switch.